An Australian Border Force (ABF) investigation has resulted in more than 18 million cigarettes being seized and the arrest of three men alleged to be behind a significant tobacco smuggling ring in Sydney.
On 3 December, ABF officers targeted a container arriving from China, described as containing boxes of paper cups. ABF officers unpacked the container and 18 million sticks of ‘Napoli’ brand cigarettes were discovered within the boxes.
As a result of further investigations, the smuggled tobacco was tracked to a commercial premise in Villawood on 6 December, leading to the subsequent arrest of three men.
A 48-year-old man was charged with smuggling tobacco under section 233BABAD of the Customs Act 1901. He was granted conditional bail and will appear before Bankstown Local Court on 11 January 2017.
The other two men arrested, aged 43 and 51, were identified as unlawful non-citizens and have been taken to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.
The cigarettes had a potential street value of more than $5 million and the total amount of duty evaded is more than $11 million.
Acting ABF Commander Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Clinton Sims, said this seizure and subsequent arrests were the culmination of a sophisticated and resource intensive operation where ABF investigators had worked tirelessly to target the organisers of this activity.
“The ABF is committed to reducing the illicit tobacco trade in Australia and these results reinforce this commitment,” Acting Commander Sims said.
“The ABF takes very seriously any revenue evading attempt and this seizure should serve as a warning to anyone involved in this type of activity – it is only a matter of time before you will be caught.”
The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.
Since its establishment in October 2015, the Tobacco Strike Team has seized more than 22 tonnes of tobacco and 52 million cigarettes and, in collaboration with the Australian Federal Police, stopped more than $7 million in alleged proceeds of crime.