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A 38-year-old Victorian man has been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with 18 months to serve after pleading guilty to smuggling offences contrary to the Customs Act 1901.
On 11 January 2019, the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) led investigations which identified a sea cargo container that held about 10 million illegally imported cigarettes. The contents of the container had been declared as “office furniture”.
The illegal cigarettes had a potential duty evaded value of more than AUD $8.5 million.
On receipt of the goods, the man was arrested and charged with tobacco smuggling offences under section 233BABAD of the Customs Act 1901 after accessing the container.
The man pleaded guilty to smuggling tobacco on 4 October 2021, and on 20 April 2022 was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court to three years’ imprisonment with 18 months to serve.
Commander Special Investigations Greg Linsdell said this was a welcome outcome for not only the ABF, but the Australian community more broadly.
“There is common misconception that engaging in the illicit tobacco trade is a victimless crime, but it is far from it,” Commander Linsdell said.
“Buying illicit tobacco is a crime. It funds organised criminal syndicates and supports them to undertake other serious criminal activities that harm Australian society.
“It also takes away potential income from genuine retailers, sometimes small family-run businesses, who abide by the law and are supporters of their local community.”
The ABF leads the ITTF, a joint-agency taskforce that proactively detects, disrupts, and dismantles serious organised crime syndicates that deal in illicit tobacco.
The ITTF combines the operational, investigative, and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, Australian Taxation Office, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
Between 1 January and 31 December 2021, the ABF detected 878.8 tonnes of undeclared loose leaf tobacco and 712.7 million undeclared cigarette sticks, a 45 per cent increase on the previous year.The penalties for smuggling tobacco are severe and can include up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.
Anyone with information about the importation of illicit tobacco or cigarettes 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.
Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia and quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Contact Quitline at https://www.quit.org.au/ for help to quit smoking. You can call the hotline on 13 QUIT (13 7848) to talk to a counsellor or request a call back.
Note for media:
Media contact: Australian Border Force (02) 6264 2211