More than 18 million illicit cigarette sticks worth over $20 million have been seized and destroyed by the Australian Border Force.
The NSW Cargo Examination Facility uncovered the illegal tobacco after intercepting two sea cargo consignments declared as plywood last month.
“These consignments were referred to the ABF-led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce for investigation,” the ABF said in a statement.
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Investigations into the discovery are continuing, with officials warning those involved in smuggling the illicit tobacco that they will face the consequences.
“The penalties for smuggling illicit tobacco are severe and can include up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded,” the ABF said.
It comes as Commander of Special Investigations Greg Linsdell admits those involved in the illicit tobacco trade often believe it’s a “victimless crime”.
“It is far from it,” Commander Linsdell said.
“Buying illicit tobacco is a crime. It funds organised criminal syndicates and supports them to undertake other serious criminal activities that harm Australian society.
“In addition to this, it takes away potential income from genuine retailers, sometimes small family-run businesses, who abide by the law and are supporters of their local community.”