International Cooperation Helps Nab Smugglers

The ABF, assisted by the cooperation of Customs services in HK, Singapore & Korea, has seized smuggled tobacco worth more than $11 million in evaded duty over the holiday period.

Australia’s joint agency Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) seized three large shipments of illicit tobacco worth more than $11 million in evaded duty over the holiday period thanks to the strong partnerships it has built with international counterpart agencies.

On Boxing Day, following a tip-off from the Korean Customs Service, and with assistance of Singapore Customs, the Australian Border Force (ABF) led ITTF seized about one million illicit cigarettes from an air cargo shipment as it arrived into Sydney. The cigarettes were mis-declared at the border with an estimated evaded duty of $1 million.

On 27 December, the ITTF was alerted by another overseas partner agency to a shipment arriving into Melbourne that they suspected to be undeclared cigarettes. The ABF examined the container and discovered 9.8 million cigarettes fraudulently declared as ‘dough mixers’, ‘cake fridges’ and ‘freezers’ and the estimated duty evasion was nearly $9 million.

A third large sea cargo shipment arrived into Melbourne from Hong Kong in early January and was found to contain more than 1.5 tonnes of rough-cut tobacco concealed within tabletops. This detection was as a result of information passed on from authorities in Hong Kong and would not have been possible without the cooperation of Hong Kong Customs and Excise. This shipment had an estimated evaded duty value of $1.9 million.

Tobacco smuggling is linked to transnational organised crime and plays a role in funding serious criminal enterprises. The ABF & ITTF are working closely with international partners and law enforcement agencies that operate across the border continuum to coordinate effective operations to dismantle these criminal enterprises. The sharing of intelligence with overseas counterparts assists foreign law enforcement agencies to dismantle the criminal syndicates trading in illicit tobacco.

The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

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