An Australian law enforcement investigation has led to the seizure of almost 10 tonnes of tobacco products from a suspected organised tobacco smuggling syndicate in Melbourne's western suburbs.
Australia Border Force (ABF) officers recently executed search warrants on three storage facilities and a number of residential properties in which a large quantity of tobacco products, documentary evidence and other evidential material was seized.
Investigations initially commenced in June 2015 when approximately 10 tonnes of tobacco products comprising 5.9 million cigarettes were imported through air cargo from the United Arab Emirates.
This investigation follows other similar ABF operations, highlighting the extent to which organised criminal syndicates are attempting to profit from illicit tobacco. In this case, it involved the alleged attempted evasion of $2.7 million in Commonwealth tax revenue.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton praised the work of the ABF in the investigation.
"Combatting tobacco smuggling is a high priority for the Australian Government," Mr Dutton said.
"This interception is an example of the valuable role our border protection agencies make targeting criminal syndicates and preventing them from generating profits which are often used to fund other criminal activity.
"The Australian Government is committed to supporting our border protection agencies to implement a range of prevention, detection and disruption strategies to protect the Australian community and industry from black-market activity."
The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is imprisonment of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.