More than 131 tonnes of illicit tobacco has been seized in Australian in the past financial year, with crooks trying to dodge $171 (US$119) million in tax.
The Australian Taxation Office took and destroyed the illicit tobacco in the 2019-20 financial year, with an estimated $171 million excise forgone.
With help from the Australian Border Force, Victorian, New South Wales and Queensland police, ATO officers executed 19 search warrants and found more than 184 acres of illicit tobacco growing across the country.
The largest single seizure was in Lake Bolac in Victoria where 31.4 acres of tobacco was found and 28 tonnes worth approximately $36.6 million in lost excise was destroyed, the ATO said in a statement on July 19.
A total of 65 tonnes worth approximately $85 million in lost tax was seized and destroyed in NSW among the efforts.
Almost 58 tonnes worth $75.5 million in lost excise in Victoria and eight tonnes worth $10 million in lost tax in Queensland are among the haul.
“Tobacco growing operations are not run by small producers or farmers. They are run by organised crime syndicates who deliberately engage in illegal activities to fund their extravagant lifestyles and other criminal activity,” Assistant Commissioner Ian Read said.
“We’re finding crops in regional and remote areas of the country, being grown on land being leased from unsuspecting owners under the guise of growing vegetables.”
Many of these finds were the result of tip-offs which can be reported by phoning 1800 060 062.
By Christine McGinn