Truckloads of illicit tobacco and vape products seized

A money-laundering investigation has led to the seizure of five truckloads of illicit tobacco and vapes in Queensland.

Following months of investigation, on 29 August, over 150 operational staff from across six agencies executed multiple warrants at 15 residential, retail, or commercial locations in the Logan, Redlands, and Ipswich areas of southeastern Queensland. 

Over $835,000 in cash, more than eight million cigarettes and about 3.74 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco with a total excise value of more than $14 million, 60,000 vapes with a street value of approximately $1.8 million, and six motor vehicles were seized.

The investigations and subsequent seizures led to a 37-year-old Logan man being charged with 58 offenses. Five trucks were needed to transport the cigarettes, loose-leaf tobacco, vapes, and other items after they were seized.

The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) began investigating the man as part of a money-laundering operation, but during the investigation found evidence that the man was allegedly involved in the distribution and sale of illicit tobacco and vape products to retail stores throughout Queensland.

Bruce Barbour, Chairperson of the Queensland CCC, said organised crime will permeate and infiltrate industries to exploit opportunities where there is the potential or actual realisation of securing massive profits from their illegal activities.

“There has been well-documented infiltration and involvement of criminal syndicates in other industries over the years, and it is concerning to see evidence of criminal activity manifesting in the tobacco and vape industry.”

“Many in the community may not realise when purchasing cheap or under the counter tobacco products or vapes that they could be funding organised crime, who then go on to use these ill-gotten financial gains to fund other criminal enterprises. They may have no idea their money may be funding very serious criminal activities in Australia and beyond.”

The multi-agency response involved officers from the CCC, Queensland Police Service (QPS), Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Queensland Health, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

Russell Joyce, Major and Organised Crime Squad Detective Acting Inspector at QPS, said inter-agency collaboration is crucial in dismantling alleged criminal syndicates.

“Organised crime knows no jurisdictions or boundaries and has no care for the impact on innocent community members.

“This result is an example of how a unified investigation can take illicit products off our streets and put alleged offenders before the court.”

The man appeared in court on 30 August and again on 31 August and no application for bail was made. He is expected to reappear on 6 September 2023 in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court.

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