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  • Organised crime case studies

    Organised crime can involve a range of criminal activities, including money laundering, drug trafficking, and human trafficking. While it often takes place behind closed doors, organised crime poses a direct threat to the community, costing Australia billions of dollars each year.

    Under the Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework, the ATO has a shared responsibility to address the impact of serious and organised crime. The following case studies demonstrate how, with the assistance of our cross-agency partners, we are effectively dealing with organised crime.

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    Extinguishing the illicit tobacco trade

    It is illegal to grow tobacco in Australia without the appropriate excise licence.

    There have been no licenced tobacco growers or manufacturers in Australia since 2006. Yet the ATO continues to see organised crime syndicates trying to grow and distribute black market tobacco and divert profits into organised criminal activity.

    In April 2019, the ATO foiled a large illicit tobacco growing operation with a total combined potential excise value of more than $18.5 million.

    The ATO, with assistance from Victoria Police and New South Wales Police, seized and destroyed tobacco crops spanning a total of 33.95 acres and tobacco leaves weighing more than 16 tonnes at two separate properties.

    The illicit tobacco crop, grown at the regional New South Wales property, was mixed with corn to try to elude law enforcement.

    This seizure demonstrates the ATO’s capability to detect, disrupt and dismantle organised crime syndicates involved in the illicit tobacco trade – there is no place to hide.

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    Illegal alcohol is a whiskey business

    Although beer and wine can be made legally at home for personal consumption, a licence is required to make spirits, even if they are only intended for personal use.

    On 10 April 2019, the ATO executed search warrants at an address in Riverglades, South Australia and exposed an illegal alcohol operation.

    The operation is alleged to have involved the manufacture and sale of illicit alcohol from the premises for approximately four to five years.

    Following information provided to Crime Stoppers, the ATO worked with the South Australian Police Licencing Enforcement Branch to uncover equipment and ingredients used in the manufacturing of illicit alcohol along with 21 bottles of suspected illicit alcohol.

    Illicit alcohol is extremely dangerous to consume due to the volatility of the distillation process. Spirits brewed illegally at home may cause blindness, brain damage or death from methanol poisoning. Methanol is a harmful compound that has been significantly reduced or removed entirely from commercially produced alcohol.

    The outcome of this case shows the important role the wider public plays in helping to sink the illegal alcohol trade.

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    Slamming the brakes on organised crime

    In May 2017, as part of an Australia-wide week of action, the ATO worked with state and federal police to target a number of bikie gang members for tax evasion.

    The ATO served lodgment demand notices, debt collection notices and court attendance notices to approximately 200 outlaw motorcycle gang (OMCG) members. The tax records of associated professional enablers, namely lawyers and accountants, were also scrutinised.

    This effort was part of Operation Morpheus: a joint-agency taskforce that falls under the AFP-led National Anti-Gangs Squad (NAGS). The objective of the taskforce is to disrupt individuals who may be deriving wealth from serious and organised criminal activities.

    Throughout the 2015–16 financial year, 688 taxpayers were targeted under Operation Morpheus. This resulted in $5.9 million being collected and 25 people being prosecuted for non-lodgment.

    Whilst the majority of taxpayers do the right thing, those who choose to engage in illegal activity can expect to face the full force of the law.

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    Last modified: 04 Jun 2019QC 59175