A major organized crime syndicate has been dealt a major blow by the multi-agency Illicit Tobacco Task Force (ITTF) after months of sustained action aimed at strangling the group’s operations in Australia and overseas.
The syndicate, mainly based in Victoria, is heavily involved in the cultivation, manufacture, import, distribution and sale of illicit tobacco in Australia.
The Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Victoria Police recently executed Act 1901 excise warrants on property in Broadford, the latest in a series of warrants and disruptive activities undertaken by the ITTF against the union in the past few months.
Since February, several illicit tobacco crops across rural Victoria have been seized and destroyed.
The ATO and Victoria Police also seized tobacco growing and processing equipment, vehicles, cash and weapons.
Victoria Police were heavily involved in helping the ITTF target this union through multiple traffic stops resulting in the seizure of freshly harvested tobacco.
Since July last year, the ABF has also thwarted the syndicate’s activities as it attempted to import over 283 million cigarette sticks and over eight tonnes of leaf tobacco.
These enforcement actions deprived the organized crime syndicate of approximately $400 million.
ATO Deputy Commissioner Jade Hawkins praised the collaborative effort of all the agencies involved.
“Illicit tobacco growing operations are not run by small growers or farmers,” Ms Hawkins said.
“They are run by organized crime syndicates who evade taxes, steal water, disregard regulations and do whatever it takes to grow their crop.
“They use their profits to fund their lavish lifestyles and engage in criminal behavior far beyond the sale of illicit tobacco, at the expense of every Australian.
“As part of the ITTF, the ATO is committed to disrupting organized crime syndicates involved in illicit tobacco from stem to supply.”
Acting Victoria Police Commander Peter Brigham has highlighted the detrimental impact of illicit tobacco on the community due to the damage he has funded.
“The sale of illicit tobacco and its links to increased crime, including the activities of organized crime groups, can have a significant negative impact on communities and businesses,” Brigham said.
Profits from illicit tobacco are usually donated to organized criminal groups involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.
“Law enforcement continues to work together to identify, disrupt and prosecute those responsible for harm in the community, but I would also encourage people to be aware of what they are buying and its closer ties to the community. crime,” Mr Brigham said.
The syndicate is linked to offshore entities of interest to international law enforcement counterparts. This shows the greatest global commitment to combat the growing illicit tobacco trade in the world.
The World Health Organization estimates that illicit tobacco accounts for up to one in 10 cigarettes consumed worldwide. International intelligence also shows that cigarettes are one of the most smuggled “legal” commodities in the world and that cigarette smuggling is a form of transnational organized crime dominated by serious organized criminal groups.
ABF Special Investigations Commander Greg Linsdell said the importance of enforcement action related to this union.
“These significant seizures and disruptions illustrate the scale of the illicit tobacco problem in Australia and around the world,” Linsdell said.
“It also demonstrates the sophistication of these criminal groups and their ability to adapt and diversify their operations to ensure a continuous supply.
“The ITTF will continue to work closely with our national and international partners to disrupt trade union activities in Australia, as well as before the border, to prevent illicit goods from reaching our shores.”
ITTF investigators were also involved in a recent operation that dealt a blow to another organized crime syndicate group involved in Australia’s illicit tobacco trade following an investigation that lasted more than four year.
Four men have been charged following an operation by the Victoria Police Trident Task Force with support from the ABF ITTF, ABF Investigations and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).
These arrests significantly disrupt the syndicate’s ability to import and distribute illicit tobacco in Australia.
The ABF-led ITTF combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, ACIC, ATO, Australian Transaction Reporting and Analysis Centre, Director of Prosecutions Commonwealth public authorities and the Home Office.
Anyone with information about the importation of tobacco or illicit cigarettes should contact Border Watch via abf.gov.au/borderwatch
By reporting suspicious activity, you help protect the Australian border and the community. Information may be provided anonymously.
If you suspect illicit tobacco is being grown or manufactured in your community, you can report it confidentially to the ATO online at www.ato.gov.au/tipoff or by calling 1800 060 062.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au
Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia and quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health.
Contact Quitline at www.quit.org.au for help to quit smoking. You can call the hotline on 13 QUIT (13 7848) to speak to an advisor or request a call back.