ITTF seizure of nearly 10 million cigarettes leads to the arrest of one man

A Sydney man has been arrested by the Australian Border Force (ABF) led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) after a shipment of nearly 10 million cigarettes was intercepted at the border.

A container was intercepted in Sydney by the ITTF and examined revealing a shipment of 9.75 million cigarettes. The shipment had been mis-declared and was discovered as part of an ongoing ITTF operation.

The estimated amount of duty evaded totalled just over $9.1 million.

The ITTF conducted a managed delivery of the container to an address in Sydney where a man was identified, arrested and later charged with tobacco smuggling offences pursuant to section 233BABAD of the Customs Act.

Further Customs Act search and seizure warrants were executed at multiple residential and commercial premises in the surrounding Sydney region where investigators seized a small quantity of gold, high value personal items and $15,000 in cash.

Superintendent of the ITTF, Leo Lahey said the taskforce is committed to cracking down on the illicit tobacco market.

“The ITTF continues to focus on targeting the most serious and significant organised crime syndicates trafficking in illicit tobacco.”

“We are very proud of our ITTF officers and colleagues for their exceptional work which has resulted in this large seizure and arrest of a priority target for the ITTF,” Superintendent Lahey said.

The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

Recently, ITTF Operation CABOODLE concluded, where the two men charged with the importation, possession and distribution of molasses and other tobacco products, faced court in Victoria. The pair were responsible for the attempted importation of nearly four tonnes of molasses tobacco with an estimated evaded duty value of more than $3.6 million.

Moussa Al Mahmoud was convicted over the importation of tobacco products and convey/possess tobacco products in contravention of sections s233BABAD(1) and 233BABAD(2) Customs Act 1901. Mahmoud was sentenced to three years and six months imprisonment and to serve a minimum of 24 months before being eligible for parole.

Mohamad Kamel Suleiman was convicted of convey/possess tobacco products in contravention of section 233BABAD(2) Customs Act 1901. Suleiman received a community corrections order for a period of 18 months and 220 hours of unpaid community work.

“This outcome should send a clear message to other criminals that the ITTF will work with partner agencies to target and disrupt criminal syndicates and prosecute those involved in the illicit tobacco trade.” added Superintendent Lahey.

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