The Australian Border Force (ABF) tobacco strike team has struck its first major blow against the illicit tobacco trade – seizing 10.6 million illegal cigarettes and seven tonnes of tobacco molasses bound for Melbourne.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton announced the strike team during a visit to the Container Examination Facility in Sydney last month.
Just two days later, on 18 October, ABF officers in Melbourne targeted a container from Singapore said to contain masking tape. On opening the container, the officers found 10.6 million cigarettes which would have attracted $5.6 million in duty if imported legally.
In the past week, the tobacco strike team has also seized two consignments of molasses tobacco totalling seven tonnes. One consignment was wrongly declared as herbal molasses, which doesn’t attract duty, and the other was consigned to a fake company. These goods would have attracted $4.7 million in duty if imported legally.
Mr Dutton said the seizures represented a significant blow to the ongoing attempts to smuggle illegal tobacco into the country.
“The ABF tobacco strike team has the resources and intelligence to identify high risk shipments before they arrive in Australia and the technology, including sophisticated x-ray capability, to target them when they get here,” Mr Dutton said.
“This type of border crime has the potential to deprive the community of legitimate tax revenue and more worryingly, fund serious and organised criminal enterprises.
“The ABF’s investigations into the shipments are continuing and will target the organisers, those who receive the illegal goods and other facilitators along the supply chain.”
People convicted of importing tobacco illegally face substantial financial penalties, calculated on the duty evaded, or up to 10 years in jail.