Australia makes record illegal tobacco seizure
Australia’s border protection agency has made its largest ever seizure of illicit tobacco in a single operation.
Members of the Australian Border Force (ABF) intercepted 71 tonnes of tobacco in three shipments, Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said.
Two containers from Indonesia were found in Sydney while the third was seized before it could leave Indonesia.
Mr Dutton said a new ABF “strike team” was being set up to target tobacco smugglers.
“This tobacco would have cost Australia over A$27m (£13m) in legitimate tax revenue if it had been successfully smuggled into the country and sold here,” Mr Dutton said in a statement.
The two containers found in Sydney held 47 tonnes of loose leaf tobacco and had come from Indonesia. The third, with 24 tonnes, was seized by Indonesian authorities before it could be shipped out, the statement said.
Mr Dutton said a high degree of organisation had been behind the shipments.
And he said the seizures – made under Operation Wardite – were the result of co-operation between the ABF and Indonesian Customs.
“There are clear links to organised crime and we know that groups smuggling illicit tobacco into Australia are also involved in other illegal activities such as narcotics,” he said.
“The ABF is determined to disrupt their activities and the new ABF strike team will focus on the organised crime syndicates behind shipments like this and collect intelligence on their operations.”
Earlier this week, the ABF announced it had seized almost six million smuggled cigarettes in raids in Melbourne.
It says it has also recently dismantled two major organised crime groups involved in tobacco smuggling, one in New South Wales and the other in Victoria.