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Four Brisbane linked men associated with a ‘cheap cigarettes’ website arrested, 4.5 tonnes of tobacco seized


Four men connected with an illicit tobacco smuggling syndicate operating in Victoria were arrested. This was following the seizer of 4.5 tonnes of tobacco by Australian Border Force investigation team.

The ABF Tobacco Strike Team also seized 615,000 cigarette sticks.  As per estimates of the team, illicit tobacco products seized during the operation equates to around $3.5 million in attempted revenue evasion. Following this, the Australian Federal Police has also restrained more than $1.3 million in associated cash and property.

According to Wayne Buchhorn, ABF Assistant Commissioner Investigations, figures which have come out due to this investigation and seizure gives a clear indication of the scale of this illegal business and illicit tobacco market. This also highlight the scale of organised crime’s movement into the illicit tobacco market.

Since tobacco is highly taxed, this sector is very attractive to serious criminal groups. The profits from these operations also end up in funding additional criminal activities. For ABF controlling illicit tobacco smuggling is priority. Involvement of a Customs broker in Brisbane in this importation has not yet been established.

After identifying a significant tobacco smuggling network linked to a ‘cheap cigarettes’ website The Tobacco Strike Team began its operations. The investigation team established links across the network’s supply chain. On the basis of this they executed seven search warrants at residential properties, storage facilities and commercial premises.

Investigators seized two tonnes of illicit tobacco, gathered evidence of the syndicate’s operations and arrested two men. The 32-year-old Chinese national who was arrested was a unlawful non-citizen and was remanded.

In addition to these warrants, the Tobacco Strike Team also executed 12 search warrants at Australia Post outlets across Melbourne. This resulted in the identification of several sea cargo shipments of illicit tobacco. They also arrested a fourth syndicate member, who is suspected of managing the ‘cheap cigarettes’ website.

The men arrested during this operation have been charged with importing tobacco products with the intention of defrauding revenue. Out of the four arrested two have also been charged for possessing of tobacco products, contrary to Section 233BABAD (2) of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth). Under provisions of the above sections, tobacco smuggling can get you 10 years’ imprisonment and or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

Meth hidden in metal gates from China seized, Brisbane based customs broker potentially implicated.  

 

In a joint investigation, Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Border Force (ABF) seized approximately 300 kilograms of methamphetamine in Melbourne. The contraband was in a consignment containing large metal gates from China.

Following the seizure three men have been charged. The seized 300 kilograms of methamphetamine has an estimated street value of $300 million.

A consignment containing large metal gates from China was examined by ABF officers. Physical examination at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility was conducted after x-ray images identified anomalies within the gates.

On deconstructed, ABF officers found a section of the metal gates contained a package covered in bubble wrap. Inside it was a white crystalline substance. This was sent for chemical examination and was tested positive for methamphetamine. Following this the matter was referred to the AFP and they in turn dismantled all similar gates which came from China. As a result, 300 one-kilogram packages of methamphetamine were recovered hidden within the metal frames. The use of a Brisbane customs broker for avoiding detection of law enforcement authorities has not been ruled out.

As follow up, AFP made controlled delivery of the consignment to an address in Derrimut, Victoria. AFP identified three male Vietnamese nationals attempting to gain access to the consignment. On the basis of four search warrants executed across the suburbs of Derrimut, St Albans, Sunshine and in the Melbourne CBD three men were arrested. The metal gates were located at a factory in Derrimut.

Neil Burnage, Coordinator Crime Operations attributed credit for the success of this operation to the flexibility, perseverance and skill of the investigators involved. Over 100 AFP officers were involved in the operation across Victoria.

Large operation involving 300 kilograms of methamphetamine with a street value of $ 300 million should be that of a drug syndicate. Even for a drug syndicate with significant resources and reach loss of 300 kilograms of narcotics is a severe blow. ABF is constantly adapting and improving its targeting methodologies. It is also working closely with national and international law enforcement partners to take on the drug syndicates.