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  • ATO and Victoria Police shut down active tobacco operation in western Victoria

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) executed a warrant yesterday in Nhill, Victoria, shutting down an active illicit tobacco operation with a value of more than $7.8 million.

    ATO officers, with the assistance of Victoria Police, uncovered approximately five acres of tobacco crops, seizing and destroying over 47.5 tonnes of illicit tobacco.

    The crop consisted of densely packed mature plants, with an estimated excise duty foregone of approximately $7.8 million.

    The ATO is responsible for detecting, investigating and prosecuting those who domestically grow or manufacture illicit tobacco products.

    Acting Assistant Commissioner Shane Strong said as a result of the vigilance shown by members of the community in reporting the suspicious activities and the continued partnership with Victoria Police, this is a successful outcome for the ATO and the Australian community.

    “The trade in illicit tobacco products in Australia has widespread negative consequences across the community.” Mr Strong said.

    “Tobacco growing operations are not run by small producers or farmers. They are run by organised criminal syndicates who deliberately engage in illegal activities.

    “We urge members of the community to report any activity they suspect may involve the production of illicit tobacco.

    “Involvement in illicit tobacco production is a serious offence. This type of activity takes vital money away from the community and places it directly into the hands of organised crime syndicates.

    “Engaging in the illicit tobacco trade is not victimless. It significantly deprives the community of taxes that are required to fund essential community services such as roads, schools and hospitals.”

    The ATO estimates that illicit tobacco costs the Australian community $647 million in lost revenue each year.

    The ATO is part of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF), which was established to investigate, prosecute and dismantle organised crime groups who use the proceeds of illicit tobacco to fund other criminal activity, as well as ensure the appropriate revenue is paid to the Australian Government.

    It has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for more than a decade. If convicted, growing tobacco carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

    If you suspect that illegal tobacco is being grown or manufactured in your community you can confidentially report it online at ato.gov.au/illicittobacco or by calling 1800 060 062.

    For more information about illicit tobacco, visit ato.gov.au/illicittobacco

    Photos and videos of the operation:

    Last modified: 06 Mar 2020QC 61686