The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) has seized and destroyed more than two hectares of illicit tobacco that was discovered in rural NSW.
The 26,670kg of illicit tobacco had an estimated excise forgone value of more than $4.4 million. In addition, a tobacco shredding machine was also located and seized.
It was discovered by Operation Junglevine2, a joint operation involving the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Australian Border Force (ABF) and New South Wales Police. It is the third major illicit tobacco bust for Operation Junglevine2, which is targeting individuals involved in the production of illicit tobacco.
It follows recent illicit tobacco busts in Murga and Binnaway, NSW where the combined green weight at the properties was more than 240,000kg of illicit tobacco.
Theo Foukkare, CEO, Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), said it is heartening to see this third major illicit tobacco bust in such a short period of time in NSW – but there still needs to be more resources and enforcement allocated at a retail level.
“Illicit tobacco across all forms, whether it is loose leaf ‘chop chop’ or illegally imported contraband products that do not meet the strict product standards continue to impact responsible law-abiding retailers every single day,” says Foukkare.
“It is estimated that one in five packets sold in Australia is via the illicit market, starving the government of more than $3.5 billion in lost excise, which is desperately needed to inject funding into other significant community areas that need investment.
“AACS supports all efforts by the Federal Government to tackle this illegal trade both at the Border and in all retail settings. In fact, AACS has been advocating on illicit tobacco enforcement through its direct involvement in the Illicit Tobacco Industry Group, direct engagement with the Federal Department of Home Affairs, State Police, Health Departments, Local Area Commands, and industry over the last two years.
“The ABF has continued to make progress on the border in intercepting these illicit products, however, AACS is still very concerned with the lack of resources allocated for health and police enforcement at a retail level in every state and territory. Illegal operators continue to sell illicit products with weak state-based legislation and fines to tackle this head on.”
The ITTF was established to investigate, prosecute and dismantle organised crime groups who use the proceeds of illicit tobacco to fund other criminal activity, as well as ensure the appropriate revenue is paid to the Australian Government.
It has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for more than a decade. If convicted, growing tobacco carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.