Two men have been arrested in Melbourne over the alleged importation of illicit tobacco worth more than $10 million in evaded revenue, in a successful start to the New Year for the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF).
Two men have been arrested in Melbourne over the alleged importation of illicit tobacco worth more than $10 million in evaded revenue, in a successful start to the New Year for the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF).

What $10m of illegal smokes looks like

Two men have been charged after allegedly importing 1.1 million illegal cigarettes falsely declared as black tea through Melbourne Airport.

The massive haul of cigarettes is worth more than $10 million in evaded revenue.

The men imported the cigarettes in multiple air cargo shipments from the United Arab Emirates.

It is alleged the men used a number of registered business names to facilitate the imports in an attempt to hide their activities.

On Thursday Australian Border Force (ABF) officers stopped a rental truck at Tullamarine full of Manchester cigarettes, allegedly from the most recent consignment.

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The driver and passenger of the truck, both Australian citizens with Lebanese heritage, were arrested by officers from the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) and charged with importing and possessing tobacco products with the intent of defrauding revenue.

Colin Drysdale, the ABF Acting Commander of Special Investigations, told the Herald Sun the arrests should serve as a warning to the criminal groups involved in the importation of illicit tobacco.

"The ABF is leading the ITTF to focus on identifying, targeting, disrupting and dismantling criminal syndicates who trade in illicit tobacco," Mr Drysdale said.

"This seizure and the disruption of this syndicate will have a significant impact on the supply of illicit tobacco supply in Melbourne.

It will be alleged the men were involved in importing multiple air cargo consignments, falsely declared as Black Tea, from the United Arab Emirates.
It will be alleged the men were involved in importing multiple air cargo consignments, falsely declared as Black Tea, from the United Arab Emirates.

"Working closely with our ITTF partners and our state and federal police colleagues we are having a real impact on the $600 million-dollar-a-year illicit tobacco market and stopping evaded revenue being funnelled back into the pockets of organised crime syndicates."

The ABF had been investigating the men for a number of months.

Investigators believe they could be linked to another seizure of illegal tobacco from late last year.

Officers had the men under surveillance on Thursday morning when they picked up the rental truck. They observed the men at a freight facility at the airport as they loaded the truck.

Once the truck pulled out of the facility and on to the road the officers swooped.

The men could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

The ITTF is a taskforce led by the ABF. It combines the operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the ABF, ATO, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

Officers had the men under surveillance on Thursday morning when they picked up the rental truck.
Officers had the men under surveillance on Thursday morning when they picked up the rental truck.

david.hurley@news.com.au

@davidhurleyHS

The back of the truck.
The back of the truck.


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