A 35-year-old Sydney man has been arrested and charged by the Australian Border Force (ABF) after he was found to be using his position as a delivery driver to assist in a sophisticated tobacco smuggling syndicate operating in Sydney.
The ABF began an investigation in January 2018 after a number of consignments of illicit cigarettes from China were identified by officers at the Sydney International Mail Gateway.
Working closely with Australia Post, ABF investigators identified a contracted delivery driver, allegedly linked to the consignments.
ABF alleges that the individual was using his position to facilitate the importation of the tobacco, which was sent to fake addresses in Panania, Picnic Point and Revesby in Sydney, and was intercepting the consignments.
ABF Investigations Commander Graeme Grosse said the operation will have a significant disruption effect on the illicit tobacco market in Sydney with about 350,000 illicit cigarettes and 1,200 kg of tobacco seized.
“These cigarettes and tobacco are worth more than $1.5 million in evaded duty, however, we expect that figure to increase as the investigation continues,” Commander Grosse said.
“The ABF is focussed on disrupting the illicit tobacco market and this operation shows we have the ability to not only detect these imports at the border, but also identify those involved and take action against them.”
The 35-year-old has since been terminated from his employment. He was charged with illicit tobacco offences under the Customs Act and will next appear at the Bankstown Local Court on 15 August.
The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is ten years imprisonment, and penalties of up to five times the amount of duty evaded can also be imposed by the courts.
The illicit tobacco market in Australia is worth about $600 million a year in evaded revenue and targeting it is key operational priority for the ABF.