Illicit tobacco costing taxpayers $4 billion per year

Criminal tobacco networks are allegedly avoiding more than $4 billion a year in taxes.

Authorities have provided information suggesting criminal tobacco networks are managing to avoid more than $4 billion a year in excise taxes.

It has been reported that the criminal networks are using the profits from selling illicit tobacco to fund activities including terrorism.

Ritchies Stores chief executive Fred Harrison said illegal tobacco is causing an epidemic in crime and putting retailers out of business.

“This is a crisis. We need urgent intervention from the federal government,” he said.

A Phillip Morris spokesperson said legitimate retailers and businesses are being hurt by the illicit tobacco trade.

“It points to the need for everyone – including industry – to work together and identify solutions to protect retailers and eradicate the issue, whilst protecting public health and government revenues,” they said.

The Black Economy Taskforce has a copy of a confidential list of around 350 illegal tobacco shops and recommends the government take a co-ordinated approach, the Australian Financial Review reported.

A spokesman for the Australian Federal Police said its role is targeting major crime syndicates importing and distributing illegal tobacco.

Confusion over responsibility for policing these offences has led to a growth in the illegal industry.

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