Illegal Tobacco Import

The Albanese Government has today unveiled a significant crackdown on the importation of illegal tobacco, spearheaded by the government, aimed at bolstering border security measures.

A commitment of $188.5 million over four years has been made to the Australian Border Force (ABF) to implement a new compliance model in collaboration with various states and territories.

Led by the Australian Border Force, a joint effort involving Commonwealth, state, and territory authorities will target all aspects of illicit tobacco trade.

The strategy comprises three main components:

  1. Curtailing the influx of illicit tobacco into Australia: The ABF, in partnership with international counterparts, will target and impede the flow of illegal tobacco from source countries to Australia.
  2. Strengthening ABF capabilities to combat illicit tobacco trade at the border: This includes bolstering intelligence gathering, targeting criminal networks, conducting investigations, and intercepting and eliminating illegal tobacco shipments. Technological advancements, including AI for detecting illicit tobacco threats, will be integrated to enhance detection and disruption efforts. Commonwealth agencies, in conjunction with state and territory law enforcement agencies, will actively target domestic networks involved in illicit tobacco trade.
  3. Facilitating a coordinated response across jurisdictions: Stakeholders will unite to implement a synchronized, multi-agency approach spanning states and territories.

The government’s enhanced strategy aims to further disrupt and discourage illicit tobacco trade in Australia, building upon the significant progress achieved in collaboration with state and territory partners since the establishment of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce in July 2018.

A resolute message is being sent to individuals and entities engaged in illicit tobacco activities: involvement in this trade constitutes a serious offense. Illicit tobacco serves as a significant revenue source for organized crime, funding various illegal endeavors.

There exists a well-documented nexus between the distribution of illicit tobacco products and serious organized crime in Australia. The buying and selling of illicit tobacco constitute severe tax infractions.

Organized crime syndicates frequently target tobacco retailers nationwide for illicit transactions. Retailers involved in such activities are complicit in criminal behavior.

Statements attributed to Treasurer Jim Chalmers emphasize the government’s commitment to deterring illegal tobacco trade and reinforcing the message that dealing in illegal tobacco carries severe consequences.

Health Minister Mark Butler highlights the health risks associated with smoking-related illnesses and underscores the government’s efforts to combat illicit tobacco through regulatory measures and the appointment of Australia’s inaugural illegal tobacco and vape commissioner.

Acting Minister for Home Affairs Andrew Giles emphasizes the pivotal role of the Australian Border Force in combating illicit tobacco trade and underscores the increased investment to enhance ABF capabilities.

Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram reaffirms ABF’s steadfast stance against illicit tobacco trade and emphasizes the funding’s role in modernizing border security measures to intercept illicit tobacco shipments before they enter Australia. Collaboration with domestic and international partners is underscored to disrupt the operations of organized criminal groups involved in illicit tobacco trade.

Written by Ross Ahmadzai

26 Jan, 2024

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