20 May, 2021
$40 million of illicit tobacco uncovered
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Queensland Police have made a shocking discovery, uncovering 10 acres of mature tobacco on a Linthorpe property, with an estimated excise value of almost $40 million.
The ATO, which is responsible for detecting, investigating and prosecuting those who domestically grow or manufacture illicit tobacco products, executed a warrant last week, seizing approximately 25 tonnes of the illegal stimulant found just outside of Pittsworth.
The ATO’s Assistant Commissioner Ian Read said engaging in the illicit tobacco trade significantly deprives the community of taxes that are required to fund essential community services such as roads and schools.
“The trade of illicit tobacco products in Australia has widespread negative consequences across the community,” Mr Read said.
“Tobacco growing operations are not run by small producers or farmers, they are run by organised criminal syndicates who deliberately engage in illegal activities.
“Organised criminals who deal in illicit tobacco rob the Australian community by using their profits to fund their criminal behaviour well beyond the sale of illegal tobacco.”
According to the ATO, it has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for more than a decade and if convicted, growing tobacco carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
The ATO estimates that illicit tobacco costs the Australian community $822 million in lost revenue each year and, as such, any sightings of the illegal product should be reported.
“Signs to look out for include intense labour production between November and May, suspicious enquiries about land for lease, and unexplained use of water resources,” Mr Read said.
“Mature tobacco plants can be up to 2.5 metres tall, have large green leaves and long trumpet-shaped, white-pinkish flowers, and may resemble kale, cabbage or corn.”
If you suspect that illegal tobacco is being grown or manufactured in the area, you can confidentially report it online at ato.gov.au/illicittobacco or call the ATO hotline on 1800 060 062.