The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has foiled a large illicit tobacco operation with a total combined potential excise value of more than $18.5 million in two major raids in regional Victoria and in regional New South Wales.
The ATO, with assistance of Victoria Police and New South Wales Police, seized and destroyed tobacco crops spanning a total of 33.95 acres and tobacco leaves weighing more than sixteen tonnes at two separate properties.
Seventeen acres of illicit tobacco crops with a potential excise value of more than $9.2 million was seized and destroyed from a property in southern regional NSW.
Nearly seventeen acres of illicit tobacco crops were also seized and destroyed at a property in northern regional Victoria which had a potential excise value of more than $9.2 million.
ATO Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said this seizure demonstrates the ATO’s capability to detect, disrupt and dismantle organised crime syndicates involved in the illicit tobacco trade.
“The illegal tobacco trade is lucrative and is primarily supplied by organised criminal syndicates.
“Engaging in the illicit tobacco trade is not victimless. It significantly deprives the community of taxes that are required to fund essential community services such as roads, school and hospitals,” Mr Vujanic said.
The illicit tobacco market in Australia is worth about $600 million a year in evaded revenue. Targeting and dismantling this criminal activity is an operational priority for the ATO.
In addition to operations like this, the ATO is part of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce that combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the Australian Border Force, ATO, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
If a member of the community has any knowledge or concerns about someone doing the wrong thing they can report it online at ato.gov.au/illegaltobacco or by calling 1800 060 062.