Three men charged over Melbourne illicit tobacco haul

Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

An Australian Border Force (ABF) operation, assisted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), has resulted in the arrest of three Malaysian nationals for allegedly possessing more than six million cigarettes illegally imported into Melbourne.

After an investigation by the ABF Tobacco Strike Team, prompted by intelligence received from the ACIC, ABF officers conducted warrant activity on 16 February 2017 at a warehouse in Thomastown where they found cigarettes concealed in metal gates.

Three Malaysian men aged, 22, 25 and 26 were arrested and charged with possession of tobacco products, knowing that the goods were imported with the intention of defrauding revenue, in contravention of section 233BABAD(2) of the Customs Act 1901.

They appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 17 February and were remanded in custody. They are due to reappear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on 26 May 2017.

The cigarettes had a potential street value exceeding $3 million with the total amount of duty evaded at about $3.6 million.

ABF Commander Mark Antill said this was a sophisticated attempt to defraud Australian taxpayers of legitimate revenue through the illegal importation.

“Illicit tobacco is an attractive market for organised criminal syndicates due to the lucrative profits that can be made in evaded tax,” Commander Antill said.

“These profits are often channelled back into organised crime.”

ACIC State Manager Victoria, Mr Jason Halls, said this operation is a strong example of law enforcement agencies working together to target criminal enterprises.

“The ACIC is committed to working with its partners to discover, understand and respond to serious and organised crime,” Mr Halls said.

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 should call Border Watch on 1800 06 1800. By reporting suspicious activities, you help protect Australia's border. Information can be provided anonymously.