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22 May 2019

Organised criminal syndicate dismantled by Terrorism Investigation Squad

Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), New South Wales Police Force

Eight men have been charged after detectives investigating terrorism funding uncovered an illicit tobacco importation syndicate operating in Sydney’s south-west.

In November 2017, detectives from the NSW Police Force’s Terrorism Investigation Squad and investigators from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) established Strike Force DeHaar to investigate terrorism funding in NSW.

The investigation has also been assisted by the Australian Border Force-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce; Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), and Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

As part of their inquiries, strike force officers uncovered an organised criminal syndicate involved in the importation of illicit tobacco, drug supply, and large-scale money laundering.

Following extensive inquiries, Strike Force DeHaar investigators arrested two men – aged 38 and 39 – at Sydney Olympic Park about 8.15am today (Tuesday 21 May 2019).

During a search of the 39-year-old man, police located $12,000 cash.

Shortly after the arrests, a multi-agency operation – which also included the Australian Federal Police – was conducted with the execution of 19 criminal organisation search warrants at homes, businesses, and storage units across Sydney’s south-west.

During the searches, investigators seized large quantities of illicit tobacco and cigarettes, various luxury goods, including designer watches, jewellery, and handbags, and a total of more than $50,000 cash.

A further six men – aged between 22 and 42 – were arrested during the operation and taken to local police stations.

A 22-year-old Yagoona man was charged with participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, and six counts of possession of tobacco (more than 500kg).

A 27-year-old Ashcroft man was charged with participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, tobacco smuggling, and possession of tobacco (more than 500kg).

A 29-year-old Hinchinbrook man was charged with participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, and possession of tobacco (more than 500kg).

A 34-year-old Punchbowl man was charged with knowingly direct activities of criminal group, two counts of knowingly deal with proceeds of crime with intent to conceal, tobacco smuggling, possession of tobacco (more than 500kg).

A 39-year-old Guildford man was charged with participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, five counts of tobacco smuggling, and possession of tobacco (more than 500kg).

A 39-year-old Sadleir man was charged with knowingly direct activities of criminal group, four counts of knowingly deal with proceeds of crime with intent to conceal, tobacco smuggling, seven counts of possession of tobacco (more than 500kg), and three counts of possession of tobacco (more than 100kg).

A 42-year-old Auburn man was charged with participate criminal group contribute criminal activity and knowingly derive material benefit from criminal group.

A 38-year-old Casula man underwent treatment at Liverpool Hospital for an unrelated illness and is in the process of being charged with knowingly direct activities of criminal group, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime with intent to conceal, and knowingly derive material benefit from criminal group.

Police will allege in court that the group took part in the supply and distribution of more than seven tonnes of tobacco products, worth more than $1.8 million.

The group also allegedly facilitated the illicit importation of 475,000 packets of cigarettes, which would accrue about $9 million in excise if imported legally.

Further, police will allege that the group laundered more than $1.2 million in proceeds of crime.

Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing, said profits made from organised criminal activity are often used to fund a variety of other criminal activities.

“There is a strong nexus between transnational organised crime and terrorism funding, and an important focus of investigations is following the money,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.

“NSW Police Force works closely with our partners to target organised crime – whether it be the importation or supply of illicit commodities or large-scale fraud – and disrupt those laundering the proceeds.

“The results of the investigation are a credit to all involved, and I’m confident we will continue to see the same dedication and resilience in future matters,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.

Australian Border Force Acting Regional Commander NSW Garry Low said it was a significant result which demonstrates the importance of cooperation between the ABF and its law enforcement partners, to enforce trade laws and disrupt serious and systemic revenue evasion by organised criminal groups.

“We know illicit tobacco is an attractive market for criminal syndicates due to the lucrative profits that can be made in evaded tax, and as we can see here, the profits are often channelled back into organised crime,” Acting Commander Low said.

“Illicit tobacco costs Australia about $600 million a year in lost revenue. The ABF, working with our law enforcement partners, will continue to do everything we can to crack down on this black market, the criminals involved in it, and prevent illicit profits being channelled back into other criminal activities.”

While investigations are ongoing, police are reassuring the community there is no current or impending threat to NSW arising from Strike Force DeHaar.

 

Last updated
22 May 2019