More than $35.5 million worth of illegal tobacco has been seized near Port Macquarie.
The discovery came after a tip off to NSW Police, who along with the ATO (who are responsible for investigating illicit tobacco in Australia), located more than 30 acres of mature tobacco crops and 20 acres of seedlings across five areas in Mount Seaview, inland from Port Macquarie.
Officers seized and destroyed 26 tonnes, which they have estimated to hold a potential value in excess of $35.5 million.
The Australian illicit tobacco trade is estimated to cost $647 in lost revenue each year.
ATO assistant commissioner Ian Read said illegal organised crime syndicates were often behind illegal growing operations.
“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,” he said.
“It was also observed that water was being taken directly from the Hastings River to irrigate the crops. Growing tobacco uses a significant amount of water, which is a drain on precious resources in a time of drought.
“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.
Tobacco growing in Australia began to be phased out during the 1990s/00s and has been illegal for a decade.