ILLEGAL tobacco worth over $30 million has been found growing over 53 acres in Bundaberg.
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) made records today with the largest cross-jurisdictional illegal tobacco seizure in the ATO’s history.
They found a record 28 tonnes of illegal crops, as well as 45,000 seedlings.
This warrant action was in addition to a number of successful operations since July 1, 2016, with officers leading 22 operations to seize illegal crops worth over $127 million.
ATO Assistant Commissioner Peter Vujanic said they took the detection and prosecution of illegal tobacco growers seriously.
“Engaging in the illegal tobacco trade not only supports organised criminal syndicates, it also robs the community by denying them of taxes that would be raised,” Mr Vujanic said.
The search warrants were conducted with the assistance of the Queensland Police and other Commonwealth agencies.
Growing tobacco without an excise licence has been illegal in Australia for more than a decade and there is no legal avenue for Australian grown tobacco to be manufactured and sold.
“The ATO is concerned that farmers in these areas may be targeted by organised criminal organisations or be at risk of unintentionally becoming involved in criminal activity,” Mr Vujanic said.
“If you are approached about growing tobacco or think you may be unwittingly involved in growing illegal crops, you should let the ATO know as soon as practical.
“While our intelligence is very good, the community is a valuable source of information for us in combating illegal tobacco trade, and they should remain vigilant for any signs of illegal activity.”