The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has destroyed an incredible 131 tons of illicit tobacco during the last financial year.

The seizures are estimated to be worth more than $171 million in excise foregone.

Illegal growing operations were uncovered by the ATO’s Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF), with assistance from state police forces from NSW, VIC, QLD and the Australian Border Force.

The ITTF oversaw 19 search warrants last year, which uncovered more than 181 acres of illicit tobacco growing in regional areas across the east coast.

Including a 31.4 acre plantation in Lake Bolac, VIC, where more than 28 tonnes was seized and destroyed, worth an estimated $36.6 million in lose excise. The total for the state was 57.8 tonnes and $75.5 million.

In NSW, more than 65 tonnes worth $85 million was destroyed, while in QLD eight tonnes worth $10 million was seized and destroyed.

Assistant Commissioner Ian Read said the ATO was committed to ending organised crime syndicates.

“The trade in illicit tobacco products in Australia has widespread negative consequences across the community,” Mr Read said.

“Tobacco growing operations are not run by small producers or farmers. They are run by organised crime syndicates who deliberately engage in illegal activities to fund their extravagant lifestyles and other criminal activity.”

“We’re finding crops in regional and remote areas of the country, being grown on land being leased from unsuspecting owners under the guise of growing vegetables.

“A number of these operations were as a result of tip-offs from concerned members of the community, and I urge people to keep reporting any activity they suspect may involve the production of illicit tobacco. Public tip-offs build on the intelligence we gather from a range of sources and help us to identify, seize and destroy these illicit crops before they are harvested and sold on the black market.”

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