Friday, October 16, 2015
Almost 6 million cigarettes smuggled into Australia by an illegal tobacco syndicate have been seized by Australian Border Force (ABF) members.

Three storage facilities and a number of homes in Melbourne's western suburbs were recently raided as part of a four-month investigation, ABF said.

Nearly 10 tonnes of tobacco products were discovered to have been smuggled into Australia from the United Arab Emirates in June.

It is alleged the smuggling ring was trying to avoid paying $2.7 million in tax.

ABF Assistant Commissioner Clive Murray said the seizure was the result of a four-month investigation into a criminal group linked to the UAE.

"The illicit smuggling of tobacco into Australia is a key priority of the Australian Border Force, along with other operational priorities," he said.

"It is a key strategy for us to combat the importation of these illicit goods and in our efforts to combat, detect disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups attempting to disrupt our border."

The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is up to 10 years in jail.

"People who are importing illicit products, illicit tobacco, are generally involved in other organised crime and this is a huge haul," Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said.

"These people are ripping off the Australian taxpayer because they're not paying excise that would otherwise be paid on these cigarettes," he said.

"We want to make sure that further detections like this are made and the Australian border force officers are working with the police agencies to make sure that we can find these hauls."

"To make sure that we can get them off the streets, too, get these cigarettes out of the hands of young kids."

'No evidence' to suggest illegal market linked to plain packaging

Tobacco companies have argued the Government's plain-packaging cigarette regulations would result in a spike in black market tobacco products.

But Assistant Commissioner Murray said there was no evidence to suggest that was happening.

"In the past three years there has been a significant increase in detections," he said.

"It could be attributed to our improved intelligence and cooperation with international partners, and our improved technical capabilities, but there is nothing to suggest the legislation has had an effect on that."

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