Tobacco smuggling 'on the rise in Australia'

SmokerAustralian customs has warned highly organised tobacco smuggling gangs are on the rise in the country.

Documents obtained by The Australian show tobacco smuggling offers huge profits and is seen by criminal gangs as a low-risk alternative to selling hard drugs. Gangs can buy 10m counterfeit cigarettes for AU$80,000 (€63,000), ship them to Australia and sell them from up to AU$4m.

"The majority of criminal entities involved in the illicit tobacco smuggling are experienced, highly organised and extensively networked," the documents said. Australian customs officials think the tobacco is smuggled by cargo ships and aircraft, in some cases with the crew involved.

In the past four fiscal years customs officers have seized 924 tonnes of tobacco and 322m cigarettes. However, with authorities only scanning one in 20 shipping containers, it seems likely much more tobacco entered Australia for sale on the black market.

Most of the tobacco comes from China and Indonesia. While the products offer a cheap option for smokers hit with rising taxes, the products often contain higher levels of carcinogens and possibly dangerous contaminants.

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