Alleged illicit tobacco manufacturing operation uncovered

An alleged illicit tobacco manufacturing and counterfeiting operation in Sydney has been uncovered following the seizure of over 1.7 tonnes of loose leaf tobacco, more than 1.5 million cigarettes and thousands of cigars, with an estimated excise forgone value of more than $4 million. If manufactured this would equate to the equivalent of 185,000 packets of 20 cigarettes.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO), supported by the partners of the Australian Border Force (ABF)-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF), executed the warrants in early December 2021 at several locations in Marrickville and Brighton Le Sands, also seizing three cigarette manufacturing machines, a large amount of labels and barcodes. Approximately $116,000 in cash was also seized.

ABF Commander Special Investigations Greg Linsdell said the ITTF was committed to targeting, disrupting and dismantling serious actors and organised crime syndicates that deal in illicit tobacco.

“The ITTF combines the exceptional operational, investigative, and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, ATO, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” Commander Linsdell said.

“This is an outstanding achievement and I applaud the ATO and the ITTF’s officers for their ongoing dedication to combatting criminal syndicates involved in the manufacture and distribution of illicit tobacco in Australia, which undermines the interests of legitimate businesses.”

ATO Acting Assistant Commissioner, Megan Croaker, said removing illegal tobacco throughout the supply chain creates a level playing field for small business.

“Involvement in illicit tobacco production is a serious offence. This type of activity takes vital money away from the community and pl​aces it directly into the hands of organised crime syndicates,” Ms Croaker said.

“In addition, retailers choosing to become involved in the sale of illegal tobacco gain an unfair price advantage over honest businesses who are doing the right thing.”