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7 February, 2020

Police shut down illicit tobacco operation

Police and the ATO have shut down illicit tobacco operation

By Phil Brandel

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) executed a warrant this week near Goulburn in New South Wales (NSW), shutting down an active illicit tobacco operation with a value of more than $13 million.

ATO officers, with the assistance of NSW Police, located four acres of tobacco crops, four bales of tobacco, a hothouse and three kilns on the site. One kiln was turned on and in the process of drying tobacco leaf.

A total of over 10.3 tonnes of illicit tobacco which had a potential excise value of approximately $13.3 million was seized and destroyed

Assistant Commissioner Ian Read said this is the second seizure in two weeks and another successful step in stamping out the illicit tobacco trade in Australia.

“The trade in illicit tobacco products in Australia has widespread negative consequences across the community. Tobacco growing operations are not run by small producers or farmers. They are run by organised criminal syndicates who deliberately engage in illegal activities,” Mr Read said.

“Involvement in illicit tobacco production is a serious offence. This type of activity takes vital money away from the community and places it directly into the hands of organised crime syndicates.

“Engaging in the illicit tobacco trade is not victimless. It significantly deprives the community of taxes that are required to fund essential community services such as roads, schools and hospitals,” Mr Read said.

The tobacco drying room

The ATO estimates that illicit tobacco costs the Australian community $647 million in lost revenue each year.

It has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for more than a decade. If convicted, growing tobacco carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

If you suspect that illegal tobacco is being grown or manufactured in your community you can confidentially report it online at ato.gov.au/illicittobacco or by calling 1800 060 062.


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