BREAKING: 53-acre, $30m illegal tobacco crop seized
THE Australian Tax Office made records today seizing more than 53 acres of illegal tobacco with an estimated excise value of $30 million near Bundaberg.
This is the largest cross-jurisdictional illegal tobacco seizure in the ATO's history and included a record 28 tonnes of illegal crops, as well as 45,000 seedlings.
This warrant action is in addition to a number of successful operations since 1 July 2016, where our officers led 22 operations seizing illegal crops worth more than $127 million.
"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."
The search warrants were conducted with the assistance of the Queensland Police and other Commonwealth agencies, demonstrating the importance of ongoing cross-agency collaboration to detect and deal with offenders.
Growing tobacco without an excise licence has been illegal in Australia for more than a decade and there is no legal avenue for Australian grown tobacco to be manufactured and sold.
"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."
Investigations are ongoing.