Illicit Tobacco Taskforce Strikes in 2019

Two men have been arrested in Melbourne over the alleged importation of illicit tobacco worth more than $10 million in evaded revenue, in a successful start to the New Year for the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF).

It will be alleged the men were involved in importing multiple air cargo consignments, falsely declared as Black Tea, from the United Arab Emirates.

Australian Border Force (ABF) examinations at the border identified that the consignment contained approximately 1.1 million cigarettes concealed underneath a thin layer of loose tea.

Following further investigations, ABF officers intercepted a rental truck at Tullamarine on January 10 that contained tobacco, allegedly from the most recent consignment.

The driver and occupant of the truck were arrested and charged under the Customs Act 1901 with importing and possessing tobacco products with the intent of defrauding revenue.

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It will be alleged the two were using a number of new and existing registered business names to facilitate the imports in an attempt to hide their activities.

ABF Acting Commander Special Investigations, Colin Drysdale, said the operation should serve as another warning to the criminal groups involved in this kind of activity.

“The ABF is leading the ITTF to focus on identifying, targeting, disrupting and dismantling criminal syndicates who trade in illicit tobacco,” Acting Commander Drysdale said.

“This seizure and the disruption of this syndicate will have a significant impact on the supply of illicit tobacco supply in Melbourne.”

“Working closely with our ITTF partners and our state and federal police colleagues we are having a real impact on the $600 million-dollar-a-year illicit tobacco market and stopping evaded revenue being funnelled back into the pockets of organised crime syndicates.”

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

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