Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) arrests alleged major tobacco trafficker in Melbourne

Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Department of Home Affairs

On Saturday morning, the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) arrested a key person of interest as he returned to Australia as part of an ongoing investigation into an alleged illicit tobacco syndicate.  

The man arrived into Melbourne Airport and was selected for additional screening as a result of investigations conducted by the ITTF. Australian Border Force investigators arrested the man and  later charged him with five offences against the Customs Act 1901 for which he faced the Melbourne Magistrates Court this morning where he was bailed to reappear in late April 2020.

The man is alleged to be responsible for attempting to import almost 16 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and more than 20 million cigarettes over the past 24 months, with an estimated evaded duty of more than $24 million.

Acting Commander ABF Special Investigations, Leo Lahey said, “This arrest is the result of a complex and protracted investigation by the ITTF and continues the focus of the ITTF on targeting the most serious and significant organised crime syndicates trafficking in illicit tobacco.”

The Taskforce, led by the ABF, was established in July 2018 and draws on expertise and resources across the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Commonwealth Department Public Prosecutions (CDPP) and the Department of Home Affairs.

The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

People with information about the illicit importation of tobacco; or individuals, businesses or employers who might be facilitating visa fraud or illegal work should contact Border Watch by going to By reporting suspicious activities you help protect Australia's border. Information can be provided anonymously.