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ATO investigation recovers $42m in illicit tobacco operation

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has helped secure another win in a major illicit tobacco operation.

Tax&Compliance Emma Ryan 23 February 2022
— 1 minute read

Operation Greyhound, which was led by the ATO, Murray River PD Rural Crime Team and the Proactive Crime Team for NSW Police Force, has uncovered and destroyed over 250,000 kilograms of illicit tobacco in regional NSW.

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According to a statement from the Tax Office, officers located 24 acres of illicit tobacco crops in Koraleigh, NSW, with an estimated excise forgone value of approximately $42 million, and seized a picking machine and water pump.

“The amount of illicit tobacco found is equivalent to the weight of 13 bulldozers. This was a sophisticated, organised operation,” ATO acting assistant commissioner Megan Croaker said, noting that the Tax Offices involvement is further testament to its commitment to stamping out illegal crime syndicates. 

“Organised criminals view the illicit tobacco trade as low-risk and high-reward, but this simply isn’t the case. This result showcases the impact of our operations in stopping criminals in their tracks.

“The ATO is primarily focused on targeting the source of the illicit tobacco supply. By stopping illicit tobacco from going from crop to shop, it creates a level playing field for small businesses.”

This latest matter comes not long after a similar one in January when the ATO, supported by the partners of the ABF-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF), executed warrants at several locations in Sydney’s Marrickville and Brighton-Le-Sands, which resulted in the seizure of over 1.7 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco, more than 1.5 million cigarettes and thousands of cigars – all of which had an estimated excise forgone value of more than $4 million. 

In addition, three cigarette manufacturing machines, labels, barcodes and approximately $116,000 in cash were seized in the case.

The 2019-20 tax gap estimated that illicit tobacco cost the Australian community $909 million in lost excise revenue each year, instead being channelled into organised criminal activities, according to the ATO.

ATO investigation recovers $42m in illicit tobacco operation
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Emma Ryan

Emma Ryan

Emma Ryan is the deputy head of content at Momentum Media and editor of the company's legal publication, Lawyers Weekly.

Emma has worked for Momentum Media since 2015 and has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest stories in corporate Australia. In addition, she has produced exclusive multimedia and event content related to the company's respective brands and audiences.

A journalist by training, Emma has spent her career connecting with key industry stakeholders across a variety of platforms, including online, podcast and radio. She graduated from Charles Sturt University with a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism).

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