Tuesday, 19 June 2018 Sydney

$9 million in illegal tobacco seized and destroyed in Northern Victoria::

An illegal tobacco crop with a potential excise value of $9 million has been seized and destroyed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as part of an excise operation in rural Victoria last week.

A tobacco crop spanning 12.5 acres and tobacco leaves weighing 5.4 tonnes were located on a property near Cobram at the Victorian/NSW border.

The ATO, with the assistance of Victoria Police, seized three trucks, one tractor and a trailer during the operation.

Last week’s warrant action is the fourth in as many months, with similar searches uncovering millions of dollars’ worth of illegal tobacco in NSW and Victoria in 2017.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston said the wider community play an important role in helping to stamp out the illegal tobacco trade.

“We found this crop based on information provided to us by Victoria Police. If you have a suspicion that illegal activity is taking place on a property in your community, you should contact the authorities.”

It has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for more than a decade, with no licensed tobacco producers growing the crop since 2006.

Mr Cranston said the illegal tobacco trade takes potential tax dollars away from the government and puts it into the hands of organised criminals.

“If landowners are approached by these groups, they can be become inadvertently complicit in the illicit activity. Our message is that if you are involved in this kind of behaviour, you will be caught.

“This seizure further demonstrates that those who participate in illegal activity cannot hide from the ATO.”

The tobacco crop was ploughed into the ground, rendering it unsalable. ATO investigations are ongoing.

Since 1 July 2016, the ATO has made nine seizures and destroyed 56 tonnes of tobacco valued at $47.8m.

If you suspect illegal activity, please call the ATO on 1800 060 062.