The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has uncovered approximately 291,000 cigarettes and 3,026 kilograms of loose-leaf tobacco in an operation spanning three properties in Logan, Queensland on Wednesday. The ATO was supported by officers from Queensland Police Service while seizing the illicit tobacco from the distribution hub.

On Wednesday, 16 March, ATO and Queensland Police officers executed warrants on two commercial units in Berrinba, finding and seizing approximately 291,000 cigarettes and approximately 2,000 kilograms of loose-leaf tobacco, commonly known as ‘chop-chop’. Officers also executed a warrant at a residential address in Crestmead where a further 1,026 kilograms of ‘chop-chop’ was also seized. The illicit tobacco seized had a total estimated foregone excise value of $5.16 million.

“This is a significant result. Close to 300,000 cigarettes is a lot of illicit and unregulated tobacco that’s been taken off our streets,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Megan Croaker said.

The results of this operation should serve as a warning to those engaging in any part of the illicit tobacco trade.

“Illicit tobacco is not victimless. It significantly deprives the community of taxes that could otherwise fund essential community services such as health and education, and it gives dodgy retailers an unfair price advantage over the majority of business who do the right thing,” Ms Croaker said.

The ATO is primarily focused on targeting the source of illicit tobacco supply. By removing illicit tobacco from stalk to supply, we are ensuring a level playing field for honest businesses.

“Selling illicit tobacco might be a temptation but it’s simply not worth the risk. We are committed to protecting legitimate retailers and the community by applying the full force of the law,” Ms Croaker said.

It has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for more than a decade. Penalties for growing, selling or possessing (including storing) illicit tobacco are significant. If convicted, criminals may face up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of at least $333,000, or both.

Signs of an illicit tobacco distribution hub in your vicinity include multiple people and or vehicles, coming and going at irregular hours and being loaded with cardboard boxes or bags.

If you suspect that someone is storing illicit tobacco in your community, you can report it anonymously to the ATO by completing the tip-off form, www.ato.gov.au/tipoff, or phoning 1800 060 062.

Extracted in full from: $5.1 million in illicit tobacco smoked out | Australian Taxation Office (ato.gov.au)

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