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$5.2m in illicit tobacco destroyed following ATO investigation


A community tip-off to the ATO led to the seizure of more than 2,700kg of illicit tobacco in Victoria.

By Reporter 8 minute read

The ATO, with the support of the Australian Border Force-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) and Victoria Police’s VIPER Taskforce, has seized and destroyed more than 2,700kg of illicit tobacco at a property in Pentland Hills, Victoria.

Officers attended the property last week and located four acres of illicit tobacco crops with an estimated excise value of $5.2 million. 

The ATO said that removing illegal tobacco from the crop to the ship “creates a level playing field for businesses doing the right thing”.

“The current excise component of a 25-cigarette packet is $31.95, and the states and territories receive the GST of approximately $3.36 to $5.18. A similar pack of illegal cigarettes is sold for approximately $22.50–$25, below the excise-exclusive price,” the Tax Office said.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Jade Hawkins this latest investigation was another example of the success of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce which brings agencies together to deliver a coordinated multi-agency response to target illicit tobacco.

“This successful outcome is the result of a tip-off to the ATO,” Hawkins said.

“Not only were we able to bring this criminal operation to a halt but we were also able to disrupt distribution to the retail sector and collect intelligence to help target future operations.”

Hawkins also encouraged the community to be aware of the signs that illicit tobacco is growing nearby.

“Some of the signs to look out for include intense labour production between November and May, suspicious enquiries about land for lease, unexplained use of water resources and large crops of leafy plants that may resemble kale, cabbage or corn,” she said.

Commander Paul O’Halloran from Victoria Police’s Crime Command said operations such as this highlighted the work done across multiple agencies to target organised crime syndicates linked to illicit tobacco.

“Over the past 12 months in particular we have seen illicit tobacco become a significant driver of organised crime groups in Victoria, with an array of serious and violent offending taking place as those groups compete for the lucrative profits,” Commander O’Halloran said.

“Disrupting these syndicates and putting a stop to their criminality remains a priority for Victoria Police and it is critical that we continue to work with our law enforcement partners including the ATO and ABF on this.

“This [latest] result highlights the success of that collaborative effort and will hopefully lead to further avenues of enquiry when targeting those organised crime groups profiting from illicit tobacco.”

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