Money laundering investigation conducts raid in Queensland and needs five trucks to haul away alleged contraband.
Police seize cigarettes, tobacco worth millions in lost tax
Police have seized cigarettes and tobacco worth more than $14 million in tax revenue plus vapes to the value of $1.8 million, $835,000 in cash and six vehicles from properties in Queensland while investigating a money laundering scam.
The joint operation, involving more than 150 staff from six agencies including the ATO, raided 15 locations in the Logan, Redlands and Ipswich areas of Queensland last week and needed five trucks to haul away 60,000 vapes, 3.74 tonnes of tobacco and more than 8 million cigarettes.
Police from the Crime and Corruption Commission charged a 37-year-old Logan man with 58 offences including 21 counts of obtaining or dealing with identification information, 29 counts of fraud, three false declarations and assault of an officer.
The man appeared in court on 30 August and was further charged with possessing tainted property. He is expected to reappear on 6 September in the Brisbane Magistrates Court.
The investigation, which began in February, focused on the alleged sale of illicit tobacco and vape products to retail stores throughout Queensland and the money laundering of “significant profits”. The man is believed to have used more than 50 different identities.
Due to the complex regulation of tobacco and vapes, the operation involved the Crime and Corruption Commission, Queensland Police, Queensland Health, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australian Border Force and ATO.
ATO deputy commissioner John Ford said the growing or selling of illicit tobacco was a serious offence.
“It takes place outside the tax and regulatory systems, and contributes to the shadow economy,” Mr Ford said. “We are committed to removing funds that are gained from criminal activities, including growing illicit tobacco. This reduces the amount that ends up in offenders’ pockets to fund more insidious criminal ventures.”
The chair of the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission, Bruce Barbour, said it was a concern that criminals were operating 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,” he said.
The head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Professor Anthony Lawler, said unregulated nicotine vapes could have serious health consequences.
“It is still unclear what the long-term health impacts of nicotine vapes may be,” he said. “The TGA is working with state regulators and other federal agencies as part of strong action to combat the supply of unlawful vaping products.”
Penalties for the illegal supply of unapproved therapeutic goods are up to five years in jail and up to $1.25 million in fines.