The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) has seized and destroyed more than 26,670kgs of illicit tobacco at a property in Braidwood, NSW.
Operation Junglevine2, is a joint operation involving the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Australian Border Force (ABF) and New South Wales Police, which uncovered more than two hectares of illicit tobacco in rural New South Wales. This is the latest activity targeting individuals involved in the production of illicit tobacco.
The 26,670kg of illicit tobacco had an estimated excise forgone value of more than $4.4 million. In addition, a tobacco shredding machine was also located and seized.
This latest activity follows recent illicit tobacco busts in Murga and Binnaway, NSW where the combined green weight at the properties was more than 240,000kgs of illicit tobacco.
ATO Assistant Commissioner Jade Hawkins said this raid should serve as a warning to anyone considering participating in the illicit tobacco trade.
“Detecting and disrupting these illicit tobacco crops has required the close collaboration of law enforcement agencies at all levels of government,” Ms Hawkins said.
“Activities under Operation Junglevine2 have so far destroyed illicit tobacco with a combined potential excise value of more than $44 million. This puts a significant dent in the illicit tobacco profits that organised criminals use to fund their criminal behaviour and other nefarious activities.”
“These criminals take vital funding away from essential community services such as healthcare, education and infrastructure.”
The Commander of Operation Phobetor, the joint agency team comprising of NSW Police, AFP, and ACIC, Detective Acting Superintendent Glyn Baker, commended investigators for their work on the joint investigation into this large-scale illicit plantation.
“By removing these tobacco crops, we are also removing any profits that could potentially be funnelled into use for organised crime networks,” Det A/Supt Baker said.
“Together with our partner agencies, our dedicated investigators will continue to target and disrupt criminal syndicates – no matter where they think they can hide.”
ABF Commander Penelope Spies said this third seizure as part of Operation Jungelvine2 demonstrates the ITTF’s commitment to eliminating illegal tobacco.
“The ABF and our partner law enforcement agencies have highly skilled officers with access to specialised technology focused on disrupting this criminal activity both within Australia and at its border,” Commander Spies said.
“This result is the culmination of several months of investigations between ITTF, ATO and NSW Police. The continued destruction of crops illustrates our message; we will disrupt and dismantle the illicit tobacco market.”
About the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF)
The ITTF is an ABF-led multi-agency Taskforce that combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, ATO, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
The ITTF also works very closely with state and territory law enforcement agencies.
The ITTF was established to investigate, prosecute and dismantle organised crime groups who use the proceeds of illicit tobacco to fund other criminal activity, as well as ensure the appropriate revenue is paid to the Australian Government.
It has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for more than a decade. If convicted, growing tobacco carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
If you suspect that illegal tobacco is being grown in your community you can confidentially report it online at ato.gov.au/illicittobacco or by calling 1800 060 062. For more information about illicit tobacco, visit ato.gov.au/illicittobacco.
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