Following a raid on a northern Victorian farm, Australian Taxation Officers (ATO) have seized 17 tonnes of illegal tobacco.
The 44kg of illegal tobacco seized has a reported value of around $16 million.
Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said the ATO takes the detection and prosecution of illegal tobacco growers seriously in a bid to protect the community from the illegal trade.
“Engaging in the illegal tobacco trade not only supports organised criminal syndicates, it also robs the community by denying them of taxes that would be raised,” Mr Vujanic said.
Australasian Association of Convenience Stores CEO Jeff Rogut said the seizure highlighted the immense scale of the crime crisis that is crippling Australian businesses.
He said the bust shows the frightening scale of the illegal tobacco black market, which is controlled by organised crime gangs.
“I want to express my thanks to the ATO for its work in uncovering another massive crop,” Mr Rogut said.
“The ATO has now seized millions of dollars worth of illegal tobacco in operations since July 2016 – and millions more has been seized by the Australian Border Force and police.”
“These officers have done a great job and I thank them for their efforts. But clearly, the extraordinary scale of the seizures shows the crime is out of control.
“Unfortunately, this represents a small fraction of the crime – an everyday across Australia organised crime gangs make thousands from selling illegal tobacco at pop-up stores and illegitimate gift shops.
“Across regional Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia convenience stores are losing between $5,000 and $10,000 a month.
“On top of that, we experience the related armed robberies, as criminals target cigarettes to sell onto the black market.
“After this $16 million bust there’s really no doubt that the illicit tobacco crime is out of control and Australia needs a national strategy to deal with illegal tobacco.
“I appreciate the recent steps the Government has taken to increase penalties for excise offences – but clearly much more needs to be done to put a dent in a trade run by organised crime gangs.”