It is illegal to grow tobacco in Australia, and excise is payable on all legally imported tobacco products. The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) was established in July 2018 to protect Commonwealth revenue by proactively targeting, disrupting and dismantling serious actors and organised crime syndicates that deal in illicit tobacco.
The ITTF is led by the Australian Border Force (ABF) and draws on the expertise and advanced capabilities of the Department of Home Affairs, the ACIC, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Australian Taxation Office. The task force has a full array of powers to effectively investigate, prosecute and dismantle international organised crime groups that are profiting from the illicit tobacco trade.
Our intelligence activities undertaken as part of the ITTF focus on:
- domestic manufacturing capabilities
- illicit tobacco importation and distribution and associated money laundering
- identification of source countries, capabilities and involvement of serious and organised crime groups.
As a result of the ITTF’s activities in 2019–20:
- ACIC members and ITTF partners jointly developed a strategic intelligence product on the impact of COVID-19 on the Australian illicit tobacco market.
- With the ITTF and ABF Joint Strike Teams, we conducted targeting of entities involved in illicit importation, facilitation and distribution to a Chinese illicit tobacco supplier, a Middle Eastern facilitator, and domestic financial facilitators.
- We developed operational intelligence products on a range of illicit tobacco activities in Australia, such as the impact of COVID-19 on localised product shortages and price spikes.
- We provided specialist capability support to ITTF operations on surveillance, telephone interception, controlled operations and surveillance device capabilities.