Illicit Tobacco Taskforce in full force in 2019

Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, New South Wales Police Force

Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, New South Wales Police Force

The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) has seized and destroyed eight acres of illegal tobacco crops and seedlings with a potential excise value of more than $9 million from a property near Araluen in New South Wales on Friday, 11 January 2019.

Australian Taxation Office (ATO) officers working as part of the Australian Border Force-led ITTF, uncovered a number of fields of tobacco plants and an additional 45,000 seedlings. This ITTF operation was conducted by ATO officers, with support from the Australian Border Force (ABF), NSW Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).

ATO Acting Deputy Commissioner, Martin Jacobs said this seizure demonstrates the commitment of Taskforce agencies in disrupting the growing of illegal tobacco.

“It is illegal to grow tobacco in Australia, with no licensed tobacco producers growing the crop since 2006,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Jacobs said.

“The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce has the capability and resources to uncover, seize and destroy illegally grown tobacco and this seizure demonstrates that there’s nowhere to hide.”

The investigation also uncovered a number of illegal workers at the premises harvesting the tobacco.

ABF Acting Assistant Commissioner Enforcement Command, Graeme Grosse, said the operation should send a clear message to those involved in this criminal activity.

“By working closely with the ATO and other ITTF partners, we are able to combine our resources and disrupt this activity on multiple fronts,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Grosse said.

“Whether it be seizing consignments at the border or destroying domestic crops, we are making a significant impact on the illicit tobacco supply in Australia and the criminal groups involved.”

This is the second ITTF successful operation in 2019, with the arrest of two men in Melbourne over the alleged importation of illicit tobacco worth more than $10 million in evaded revenue.

The ATO and the Department of Home Affairs estimate that almost $600 million in tobacco duty was foregone in 2015-16 financial year as a result of the trade in illicit tobacco.

Since July 2016, the ATO has undertaken 38 seizures of approximately 240 tonnes of illicit tobacco with estimated tobacco duty forgone in excess of $200 million.

In the last financial year, the ABF also made more than 110,000 detections of illicit tobacco at the border including almost 240 million cigarettes and 217 tonnes of tobacco, worth more than $356 million in evaded duty.

The ITTF is an ABF-led Taskforce that combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, ATO, Department of Home Affairs, ACIC, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

Media contacts: ATO - 02 6216 1901 ABF - 02 6264 2244