ATO - Australian Taxation Office

03/09/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/08/2018 18:06

More than 20 million dollars of illegal tobacco goes up in smoke

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has seized illegal tobacco with an estimated excise value of $23.4 million in four major raids across regional Victoria in the last week.

This warrant action follows on from a number of successful operations since 1 July 2016, where our officers led 16 operations seizing illegal crops worth more than $91 million in addition to the activity this week.

'The ATO takes the detection and prosecution of illegal tobacco growers very seriously to help protect the community from the domestic illegal tobacco trade,' Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said.

'Engaging in the illegal tobacco trade not only supports organised crime syndicates, it also robs the community by denying them of taxes that would be raised.'

Nearly 20 acres worth of illegal crops were seized in Telopea Downs this week with an estimated value close to $9 million as part of the ATO's ongoing work to combat the illegal tobacco trade.

More than 16 acres of illegal crops were also seized and destroyed at Mooroopna, with an estimated value of more than $7 million.

Another 12 acres of tobacco crops located near Dunnstown worth an estimated $6 million were destroyed last Thursday. During the raid, police officers also seized equipment and illegal firearms.

A fourth raid near Oaklands Junction this week lead to the seizure of 1.3 tonnes of dried illegal tobacco and destruction of freshly planted tobacco worth an estimated $1.3 million.

The search warrants were conducted with the assistance of the Victoria Police and other Commonwealth agencies, demonstrating the importance of ongoing cross-agency collaboration to detect and deal with offenders.

Growing tobacco without an excise licence has been illegal in Australia for more than a decade and there is no legal avenue for Australian grown tobacco to be manufactured and sold.

'The ATO is concerned that farmers in these areas may be targeted by organised criminal organisations or be at risk of unintentionally becoming involved in criminal activity,' Mr Vujanic said.

'If you are approached about growing tobacco or think you may be unwittingly involved in growing illegal crops, you should let the ATO know as soon as practicable.

'While our intelligence is very good, the community is a valuable source of information for us in combatting illegal tobacco trade, and they should remain vigilant for any signs of illegal activity,' he said.

Investigations are ongoing.

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The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has seized illegal tobacco with an estimated excise value of $23.4 million in four major raids across regional Victoria.Last modified: 09 Mar 2018QC 54763