The Australian Government’s Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF), led by the Australian Border Force (ABF) has detected more than one million cigarettes in an air cargo shipment from Korea declared as ‘mini massagers’.
On 19 October 2019, the consignment was targeted for examination. ABF officers inspected the shipment which contrary to the declaration, contained nothing other than 5,000 cartons of cigarettes.
A total of 1,094,000 cigarettes were seized, weighing more than 1 tonne, which represents more than $1.1 million in evaded duty and GST. Apart from the false declaration the consignor had made no effort to conceal the cigarettes in a brazen attempt to circumvent Australia’s border.
Investigations into the people behind the attempted importation are ongoing.
On 1 July 2019, it became illegal for anyone to import tobacco without a permit, or in contravention of permit conditions. Tobacco can no longer be imported through the mail stream. The new regulations are a further deterrent to the trade in illicit tobacco, which funds serious and organised crime within our community.
ABF Acting Commander Special Investigations, Chris White said the detection was another example of the ITTF’s commitment to disrupting the supply of illicit tobacco.
“This means the profit from the illegal sale of more than one million cigarettes has not made it into the coffers of organised crime” Acting Commander White said.
“Australians who buy illicit tobacco should be aware that the proceeds of these sales are supporting a market dominated by criminal syndicates that use the profits from illicit tobacco to fund other illegal activities.
“ABF officers are well versed in the various methods tobacco and cigarette smugglers use to attempt to circumvent Australia’s air and sea border controls,” he added.
Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, the honourable Jason Wood MP, thanked the ITTF and the ABF for their efforts.
“I congratulate the hard-working Illicit Tobacco Taskforce and Australian Border Force personnel on their incredible effort in detecting and seizing more than one million illegal cigarettes from entering the Australian community. No matter how hard criminal organisations try to smuggle illicit goods into our country, Australian Border Force will always be there to protect our community,” Assistant Minister Wood 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.