Nearly $20m in illicit tobacco and vapes seized across three states

Raids across NSW, Qld, and WA have resulted in the seizure of nearly $20 million worth of illicit tobacco and vape products.

In NSW and Qld, the ABF-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) and partner agencies have taken down a large-scale illegal tobacco syndicate, removing $9.1 million of illicit products from the streets.

Investigation’s commenced in October 2022, before it came to a culmination on 8 August 2023 when 11 warrants were executed at properties across the South East Queensland, Tweed Heads, and Coffs Harbour regions.

The ABF seized more than $1.4 million in cash, in excess of 2,800,000 cigarette sticks, approximately 380 kilos of loose-leaf tobacco, suspected counterfeit empty plain packaging, nicotine vaping products with an estimated street value of $5.3 million, and documentary and electronic evidence to support prosecution against alleged Customs Act offences.

Penny Spies, ABF ITTF Commander, said the raids will be a significant blow to this criminal network’s multi-layered operation.

“As demonstrated with the cash seized at these warrants, the illicit tobacco trade is an attractive market for organised criminal syndicates due to the lucrative profits that can be made from evading tax. These profits fund lavish lifestyles and are channelled back into organised crime.

“Together with our partner agencies, we have prevented this network from significant infiltration into the illegal domestic tobacco trade and from causing further harm to the Australian community.”

Detective Inspector Stephen Tiernan of the Queensland Police Service said inter-agency cooperation is crucial in disrupting organised crime and protecting innocent members of the public from its impacts.

“Illicit tobacco products are often laced with illegal and hazardous chemicals and ingredients that risk the health of the unsuspecting people purchasing it, who believe it’s lawful and regulated.”

$10 million vape seizure in WA

Over 300,000 vapes with a street value of $10 million have been seized from a WA warehouse in a record-breaking bust.

In the single biggest seizure of vape products in WA’s history, 15 tonnes of vapes and more than 10 tonnes of nitrous oxide – known as nangs – were seized from a warehouse in the Perth metropolitan area following a tip-off.

Amber-Jade Sanderson, WA Health Minister, congratulated all those involved in the operation.

“Compliance officers have confiscated hundreds of thousands of illegal vapes in this latest seizure, taking them out of the market and stopping them from potentially being sold in the WA community.”

“Nicotine is a highly addictive and dangerous poison, and we know vapes also contain many other toxic substances and are designed to appeal to young people.”

It is an offence to manufacture, supply, possess, or sell a product containing nicotine without a doctors’ prescription.

In WA, the maximum penalty for selling nicotine vapes under the Medicines and Poisons Act 2014 is $45,000 and imprisonment for three years for an individual, or $225,000 for a company.

Sanderson urged anyone with information about the illegal supply of vapes to contact Crime Stoppers.

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