Australia’s Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) has seized and destroyed more than $4.4 million worth of illegal tobacco following a raid of a Braidwood property.
Officers from Operation Junglevine2 – which involves the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Australian Border Force and NSW Police – uncovered more than two hectares of illicit tobacco at the site, along with a tobacco shredding machine.
The 26,670 kg of illicit tobacco had an estimated excise forgone value of more than $4.4 million.
This follows recent illicit tobacco busts in Murga and Binnaway, where the combined green weight at the properties was more than 240,000 kg 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.
“Activities under Operation Junglevine2 have so far destroyed illicit tobacco with a combined potential excise value of more than $44 million,” she said.
“This puts a significant dent in the illicit tobacco profits that organised criminals use to fund their criminal behaviour and other nefarious activities.”
The taskforce targets illicit tobacco because of its potential to be used to fund organised crime networks.
The unpaid tax on the product could also be used to fund community services such as healthcare, education and other infrastructure.
ABF Commander Penelope Spies said this third seizure as part of Operation Jungelvine2 demonstrated 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,” she 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.”
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 or by calling 1800 060 062.
Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on About Regional.