Illicit Tobacco Taskforce cracks down on criminal syndicates

Officers from the Australian Border Force (ABF) led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) have arrested a man and detained a second man, seized cash, illicit tobacco and a $100,000 casino token after warrants were executed at properties across Sydney.

After information received through BorderWatch, the ABF began an investigation into claims the men were using storage lockers to store and move suspicious packages.

It is alleged more than 100 packages of tobacco were sent through the international mail over the last six months.

On 9 and 10 April 2019, the ITTF conducted search warrants at storage facilities in Macquarie Park and Guildford and residential properties in North Ryde and Eastwood.

A number of items were located and seized under the warrant including a $100,000 casino token, approximately $23,000 cash and approximately one million cigarettes (with an evaded tax value of approximately $800,000).

One man was arrested and charged in relation to the illegal importation of tobacco under Section 233BABAD(2) of the Customs Act 1901. He is expected to appear in court in May 2019.

The other male was found to be an unlawful non-citizen, having had his student visa cancelled in September 2018. He was transported to Villawood detention centre.

ABF Commander Special Investigations, Susan Black praised the efforts of investigators for shutting down another criminal syndicate suspected of importing and distributing illicit tobacco in Australia.

“The ITTF is continuing to identify, target and dismantle criminal syndicates involved in this activity,” Commander Black said.

“By working closely with our ITTF partners we are having a real impact on the illicit tobacco market and stopping evaded revenue being funnelled back into the pockets of organised crime syndicates.”

“We thank the Australian community for remaining vigilant and reporting information about suspected illicit tobacco to the ABF. This anonymous tip off has helped ensure these illegal imports don’t make it into the community.”

The ITTF is an ABF-led taskforce that combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

Anyone with information on the importation of illicit tobacco is encouraged to contact Border Watch at Australia.gov.au/borderwatch. This can be done anonymously.

From 1 July, the laws for bringing tobacco into Australia are changing. To import tobacco into Australia you must have a permit issued by the Department of Home Affairs. If you import tobacco without a permit, it will be seized and you may face fines and/or criminal prosecution.

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