Two tonnes of illicit tobacco seized in four days

The Morrison Government’s Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) is successfully disrupting the supply of illicit tobacco and combatting the criminal syndicates that facilitate the trade.

Over a four-day period, three separate sea cargo consignments were intercepted by ABF officers and upon examination, were found to contain over 2.6 tonnes of illicit tobacco.

These detections alone have an estimated value of over $4 million in duty evaded. 

Illicit tobacco is an attractive market for organised criminal syndicates due to the lucrative profits that can be made through the evasion of customs duty and associated taxes.

Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood highlighted the Morrison Government’s commitment to stopping this menace.

“We will not tolerate and allow criminal syndicates to continue to bring illicit tobacco into Australia,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

“We have introduced strong measures to combat this menace and the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce lead by the ABF is at the forefront of this prevention strategy.”

The profits made through illicit tobacco are often channelled back into organised crime groups and their activities, rather than funding essential services in the Australian community. Individuals purchasing illicit tobacco are putting money into the pockets of serious and organised criminals and undermining legitimate businesses.

Attempted importations of illicit tobacco are often concealed within cargo consignments amongst other commodities or declared as goods other than tobacco, to avoid ABF scrutiny, as was the case with these consignments.

The ABF has made illicit tobacco a key operational priority, and leads the Federal Government’s ITTF, which includes the Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC, the ATO, and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

The ITTF is focused on the protection of Commonwealth revenue by proactively targeting, disrupting and dismantling serious actors and organised crime syndicates that deal in illicit tobacco.

Assistant Minister Jason Wood further praised the achievements of the ABF.

“These illicit tobacco seizures were significant and highlight the efforts of the Australian Border Force in combatting illicit tobacco at the border,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

“We are serious about cracking down on the tobacco black market and through the efforts of the ABF and Taskforce and will continue to target all aspects of the trade in illicit tobacco, whether it’s here or overseas.”

In the 2020/21 financial year the ABF made over 214,000 illicit tobacco detections and seizures. These included more than 827 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and 598 million cigarette sticks, with a combined excise value of $1.92 billion.

Anyone with information about the importation of illicit tobacco should contact Border Watch at abf.gov.au/borderwatch. By reporting suspicious activities, you help protect Australia’s border and the community. Information can be provided anonymously.

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