The Australian Border Force (ABF) has announced a significant rise in people trying to illegally import tobacco into Australia.
According to the ABF, last year it detected 878.8 tonnes of undeclared loose-leaf tobacco and 712.7 million undeclared cigarette sticks, a 45 per cent increase on the previous year.
Commander Trade and Travel Operations East at the ABF, Susan Drennan said the majority of the illicit tobacco consignments were arriving from the Middle East and Asia.
“Criminal groups who attempt to facilitate this illegal trade should stop wasting their time and money,” Commander Drennan said.
“Our detection numbers show we are very alert to the different methods and patterns of concealment used in illicit tobacco importations at our borders,” she said.
Commander Special Investigations at the ABF, Greg Linsdell said tobacco was a common choice for transnational criminal groups attempting to make profits at the expense of the Australian community.
“Organised crime groups capitalise on unwitting smokers looking for cheap cigarettes to enrich themselves and to fund other types of criminal activities that harm our community,” Commander Linsdell said.
“We urge Australians not to buy illicit tobacco,” he said.
“Not only is it a crime, but it facilitates other illegal activity and takes away potential income from genuine retailers who abide by the law and support their local community.”
Commander Linsdell said the penalties for smuggling tobacco were severe and could include up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.