Australian Border Force (ABF) officers have charged a 48-year-old Scarborough man after he allegedly attempted to smuggle more than a tonne of molasses tobacco, 810,000 cigarettes and other prohibited products into Western Australia inside a sea container.
The value of the evaded duty on the molasses tobacco and cigarettes is more than $1.84 million.
Officers at the ABF’s WA Container Examination Facility (CEF) selected the container for closer examination after it arrived from India on 18 February 2019.
Anomalies were identified when the container was x-rayed, with an ABF detector dog subsequently indicating the presence of tobacco.
It will be alleged that the physical examination of the container revealed the following items behind a ‘cover load’ of food and household products:
1,104 kgs of molasses tobacco
810,000 cigarettes (40,500 packets)
77.58 kgs of chewing tobacco
1,200 Kamini pills
Kamini pills, which contain Opium Poppy, and chewing tobacco are both prohibited products in Australia.
On 6 March 2019, ABF officers executed warrants on an Osborne Park business premises and a Scarborough residence.
A number of tobacco products were located and seized at the business, along with documents and electronic devices. Investigations relating to those items are ongoing.
The man was arrested at the business and charged with the following:
1 x Imported goods, being tobacco products, with the intention of defrauding the revenue, contrary to section 233BABAD(1) of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth).
He was granted bail and is due in the Perth Magistrates Court today (Friday, 15 March 2019).
The ABF is also investigating a second container allegedly sent from the same consignor in India to the same consignee in Perth, which was examined at the CEF on 6 March 2019.
It allegedly contained the following (also packed behind a cover load):
1,608 kgs of molasses tobacco
480,000 cigarettes (24,000 packets)
98.2 kgs of chewing tobacco
The amount of duty evaded for that amount of tobacco product is over $2.14 million.*
The ABF’s acting Regional Commander for WA Emma Newman praised the officers at the CEF who identified the first suspicious consignment.
“These seizures will put a significant dent in the supply of illicit tobacco in Western Australia,” Acting Commander Newman said.
“People who engage in this kind of behaviour – whether it’s growing, importing, supplying or buying black market tobacco – not only put money into the hands of organised crime, but take away potential tax dollars from the Australian community.
“Tobacco smuggling also seriously impacts retailers who abide by the law.
“Targeting and dismantling this criminal activity is an operational priority for the ABF. We will find those who participate in this illegal trade, and hold them to account.”
The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.
The illicit tobacco market in Australia is worth about $600 million a year in evaded revenue.
In addition to investigations like this, the ABF is also leading the new Illicit Tobacco Taskforce that combines the resources of the ABF, Department of Home Affairs, ACIC, the Australian Taxation Office, AUSTRAC and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
Anyone with information on the illegal importation of illicit tobacco is encouraged to contact Border Watch at www.australia.gov.au/borderwatch. This can be done anonymously.
*NOTE: The rate of duty on tobacco products increased slightly on 1 March, 2019 – – https://www.ato.gov.au/business/excise-and-excise-equivalent-goods/tobacco-excise/excise-rates-for-tobacco/