Australia’s new Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) has detected and seized more than 262 tonnes of illicit tobacco, with an estimated excise value of more than $270 million, since it was established in July 2018.
The ITTF is an Australian Border Force (ABF) led Taskforce established to protect Commonwealth revenue by targeting, disrupting and dismantling organised criminal syndicates that deal in illicit tobacco.
It combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).
At the border, the ITTF has been responsible for the detection of more than 195 million cigarettes and 65 tonnes of loose leaf tobacco – worth over $228 million in evaded duty.
Over 41 tonnes of domestically grown tobacco has also been seized and destroyed by the ATO in four joint operations across Australia since the Taskforce was established. These operations have an estimated evaded excise value of $42 million.
The largest detection the ITTF saw for the year was a nine tonne detection at the ABF Container Examination Facility in Sydney, where over 11.5 million cigarettes, falsely declared as toilet paper, were seized. This equated to over $10 million in evaded duty.
Commander ABF Special Investigations, Susan Black praised the ITTF for their hard work and significant results.
“As the lead of the ITTF the ABF have set a high standard for how a successful and coordinated, whole-of-government taskforce can operate,” Commander Black said.
“Our ABF officers go to work every day to stop these criminal syndicates from defrauding the Commonwealth of legitimate revenue and funnelling their profits into organised crime, and I commend them on their achievements.
“Bringing together the resources of the ABF, Home Affairs, ATO, ACIC, AUSTRAC and CDPP means we can tackle black market trade on multiple fronts.”
ATO Assistant Commissioner Ian Read said that the success of the ITTF demonstrates its commitment to dismantling organised crime syndicates involved in the illicit tobacco trade.
“Engaging in the illicit tobacco trade is not a victimless crime. It significantly deprives the community of revenue and places the money in the hands of criminals,” Mr Read said.
“This is an operational priority for the ATO. We are proud to be a part of the ITTF and of the success of the Taskforce since its establishment”.
Anyone with information about illicit tobacco should contact Border Watch by going to www.australia.gov.au/borderwatch. Information can be provided anonymously.