Illegal tobacco syndicate up in smoke as man heads to prison

A man has been sentenced to serve at least 18 months prison time after illegally importing multiple container shipments of tobacco, and evading tens of millions of dollars in duty to the Federal Government.

From August 2017 to November 2018, officers from the Australian Border Force (ABF) made seven detections of illicit tobacco in Melbourne, representing more than 16.5 tonnes and approximately $14 million in evaded revenue.

On 25 February 2019, the ABF executed warrants on residential premises and vehicles in Melbourne, arresting the man and charging him with intention to defraud revenue under s233BABAD(1) of the Customs Act.

On 4 October 2019 the man pled guilty to the charge, with a sentence hearing taking place on 9 July 2020. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with a minimum of 18 months to be served.

This is the second person to be convicted from this syndicate, with another man arrested on 12 April 2019 and sentenced on 8 May 2020 to two years and three months imprisonment including a minimum of 13 months. The man, an unlawful-non citizen, is now in immigration detention awaiting his removal from Australia.

ABF Superintendent for Investigations, Nicholas Walker, said the strong sentencing outcome sent a powerful message to those who may seek to circumvent Australia’s strong border measures and tax system.

“This outcome highlights the ABF’s commitment to tackling the illegal import of all commodities including tobacco into Australia.

“Tobacco smuggling is one of the ABF’s operational priorities, and we will continue to work with partner agencies to target and disrupt criminal syndicates and prosecute those involved in the illicit tobacco trade,” Superintendent Walker said.

The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

People with information about the illicit importation of tobacco should contact Border Watch by going to www.Australia.gov.au/borderwatch. By reporting suspicious activities you help protect Australia’s border. Information can be provided anonymously.

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