TWENTY-EIGHT tonnes of illegal tobacco worth more than $60 million has been seized in Queensland.
The Australian Tax Office and Queensland Police Service seized the tobacco during raids on four properties in the Pine Creek area, near Bundaberg, on Tuesday.
A record 28 tonnes of illegal tobacco and 45,000 seedlings were seized during the operation.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
Police said the excisable value of the crops, which were spread across 53 acres of farmland, was $30.05 million with a street value of around $60 million.
It follows an 18-month investigation led by the Australian Tax Office and is the largest cross-jurisdictional illegal tobacco seizure in the ATO’s history.
“The ATO takes the detection and prosecution of illegal tobacco growers very seriously to help protect the community from the domestic illegal tobacco trade,” Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said.
“Engaging in the illegal tobacco trade not only supports organised criminal syndicates, it also robs the community by denying them of taxes that would be raised.”
It’s understood the owners of the land had leased their property to a group of people from Victoria who had led them to believe they were growing crops such as sweet potatoes.
“The ATO is concerned that farmers in these areas may be targeted by organised criminal organisations or be at risk of unintentionally becoming involved in criminal activity,” Mr Vujanic said.
“If you are approached about growing tobacco or think you may be unwittingly involved in growing illegal crops, you should let the ATO know as soon as practical.
“While our intelligence is very good, the community is a valuable source of information for us in combatting illegal tobacco trade, and they should remain vigilant for any signs of illegal activity.”
Tuesday’s raids follow 22 similar operations across the country, dating back to July 2016, which have netted $127 million in illegal tobacoo.
You can also report information about crime anonymously to Crime Stoppers by calling 1800 333 000 or via crimestoppersqld.com.au 24 hours per day. Crime Stoppers is a registered charity and community volunteer organisation.