Australian authorities bust major illicit tobacco ring

More than A$18.5m ($13.3m) worth of illicit tobacco was seized and destroyed in two raids in areas of Australia this week.

The Australian Taxation Office says a tobacco crop of about 34 acres from a property in southern New South Wales was seized, with a similar amount seized from a northern Victorian property. Together, the illegal tobacco weighed around 16 tonnes

ATO assistant commissioner – Peter Vujanic – said that illicit tobacco results in about A$600m in evaded revenue a year, but that the operation demonstrates ATO’s capability to detect, disrupt and dismantle organised crime syndicates involved in the trade.

“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, school and hospitals," said Vujanic in a statement.

Estimates put the extent of the illicit tobacco trade globally at around 12 per cent of total consumption, although this can vary between countries with just 1 per cent in some and 40–50 per cent in others.

The trade is estimated to cost around $40.5bn in lost tax revenues worldwide per year and – if curbed – could avoid 164,000 premature deaths.

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