The Australian Border Force (ABF) led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) has arrested and charged a 32-year-old man in Sydney over the alleged illicit importation of up to 184kg of molasses tobacco.
It is alleged the man avoided paying duty on the tobacco products by providing false documents and concealing tobacco products within packages of other items.
On 26 March 2019, following further investigations, ABF officers intercepted the man and his mother at Sydney International Airport as they arrived back into Australia from Beirut. A search of the man’s baggage also located steroids that were seized and he was issued with a fine.
The man’s mother was searched and found to be in possession of $20,000 of undeclared Australian currency. This was referred to the Australian Federal Police and the cash was seized.
Later that day, ABF officers working under the ITTF executed warrants at the man’s residence in Homebush, where they located documents relating to the alleged importation of molasses tobacco as well as additional steroid medication.
The man was arrested and charged with multiple offences relating to the illegal importation of tobacco under Section 233BABAD(2) of the Customs Act 1901 and placed in the custody of NSW Police. He is expected to appear in court later this month.
ABF Commander Special Investigations, Susan Black, said the arrest should send a clear message to individuals about the ABF’s ability to detect illicit tobacco being imported and distributed.
“People often think they can send illicit goods through the mail and air cargo anonymously but by using intelligence, highly skilled officers and sophisticated technology the ABF and our partners are more than capable of detecting and prosecuting the people responsible for these importations,” Commander Black said.
The maximum penalty for importing tobacco products with intent to defraud the Commonwealth Government of revenue is 10 years imprisonment.
The ITTF combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, Australian Tax Office, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
The Australian Government is also introducing new tobacco import requirements from 1 July 2019 making it illegal for anyone to import tobacco without a permit, or in contravention of permit conditions.
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.