ABF seizes record amount of illicit tobacco

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Australian Border Force (ABF) has detected record amounts of illicit tobacco in the last financial year, with the weight of detections of loose-leaf tobacco increasing by over 300 per cent.

In the 2020/21 financial year the ABF made over 214,000 illicit tobacco detections and seizures. These included more than 827 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and 598 million cigarette sticks, with a combined excise value of $1.92 billion.

These latest figures represent a sharp increase from the previous financial year, when the ABF made 157,000 detections comprising of over 177 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and 422 million cigarettes, with a combined excise value of $611.75 million.

Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood applauded the ABF for its outstanding achievement.

“This increase in illicit tobacco detection rates highlight just how committed the ABF is to disrupting and dismantling the tobacco black market, and the dangerous criminal syndicates who operate it,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

“Australia has one of the strongest regulatory regimes for tobacco in the world and the high rate of detections by the ABF show the effectiveness of this approach.

Supplying, selling and possessing illicit tobacco is an offence in Australia. Any businesses or individuals who choose to deal in illicit tobacco place themselves at risk of prosecution, fines and/or imprisonment.

“There is a common misperception of illicit tobacco being a ‘victimless crime’ and this simply is not accurate,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

“Illicit tobacco sales have been linked to organised crime and wider black economy activity, and money spent on these goods goes straight into the pockets of these criminals.

“The illicit tobacco trade harms our wider community and I urge the public to report any suspicious behaviour to Border Watch. This can be done anonymously.”

The ABF continues to implement illicit tobacco measures as part of its frontline border law enforcement and customs activities to protect the integrity of Australia’s borders through its leadership of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF).

The ITTF combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, Australian Tax Office, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Anyone with information on the importation of illicit tobacco is encouraged to contact Border Watch at australia.gov.au/borderwatch.

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