Man sentenced for illegally importing 10 million cigarettes

A 64 year old NSW man has been sentenced to imprisonment of 21 months to be served by way of Intensive Corrections Order after pleading guilty to tobacco smuggling offences contrary to the Customs Act 1901.

On 19 May 2020 investigations by the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) identified the sea cargo container which contained approximately 10 million illegally imported cigarettes destined for an address in Sydney.

On receipt of the goods, the man was arrested and charged with tobacco smuggling offences under section 233BABAD of the Customs Act 1901 after accessing the container.

More information about the May 2020 operation can be found here.

The man plead guilty to smuggling tobacco on 5 February 2021 and on 5 August 2021 was sentenced in the Downing Centre District Court to imprisonment of 21 months to be served by way of Intensive Corrections Order. In addition to the standard conditions, the man is to complete 200 hours of community service and is to participate in a program to address his gambling problem.

In addition the AFP-led multi-agency Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT), obtained restraining orders over $3.25m of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth).

ABF Commander Special Investigations, Greg Linsdell said the ITTF is committed to stopping criminal groups from profiting from the importation and sale of illicit tobacco.

“We know organised criminal groups use the profits from the sale of illegal tobacco to fund other illegal activities” he said.

“ABF officers have the tools, technology and expertise to detect attempts to import illicit tobacco and ensure people engaging in this criminal activity will face the full force of the law.”

AFP Commander Criminal Assets Confiscation, Stephen Fry said that the CACT’s mandate was to deprive offenders of the proceeds and benefits of their crimes, and to punish and deter them from breaching the law.

“The AFP, working jointly with its partner agencies is depriving organised crime of the benefits derived from their offending and this undermines the profitability of criminal enterprises’’

The AFP-led CACT brings together the resources and expertise of the AFP, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, AUSTRAC, and the Australian Border Force. These agencies work together to trace, restrain and ultimately confiscate criminal assets with the funds redirected by the Commonwealth Government to crime prevention, law enforcement and other community initiatives.

The Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, Jason Wood, said all people involved in the sale or purchase of illicit tobacco are helping to fund organised crime.

“The sale of black market tobacco is a serious issue in Australia, not only does it fund organised crime, but it takes money out of the hands of legitimate businesses.” he said.

“The Government is committed to disrupting and prosecuting those involved in the tobacco black market, from those who organise its importation right down to people who sell it under the counter.”

The ABF leads the multiagency Illicit Tobacco Taskforce which is focussed on investigating, prosecuting, and dismantling international organised crime groups who use the proceeds of illicit tobacco to fund other criminal activities.

It combines the operational, investigative, and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, Australian Taxation Office, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports, and the Analysis Centre and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

People with information about the importation and export of illicit tobacco or cigarettes should contact Border Watch at www.border.gov.au/borderwatch. By reporting suspicious activities, you help protect Australia's border. Information can be provided anonymously.