This week the Turnbull Government marks a new era in Australia’s fight against illicit tobacco with the stand-up of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce.
The criminal networks behind this lucrative black market will now have to contend with the combined operational, investigative and intelligence capabilities of the Australian Border Force (ABF), Department of Home Affairs, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said the ABF-led Taskforce would be pro-actively targeting, disrupting and dismantling illicit tobacco syndicates.
“We know this is a market dominated by organised crime groups who use their profits to fund more serious and insidious crimes that pose a threat to the Australian community,” Mr Dutton said.
“By bringing together our Home Affairs agencies, with the ATO and CDPP we can better target the suppliers, the couriers and the ringleaders whether here or overseas.”
The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer said about $600 million dollars in tobacco duty was forgone in 2015-16 due to the illicit tobacco market.
“The ATO has already achieved strong results in disrupting the illicit tobacco market but there is more to do. The Taskforce will further enhance the ATO’s ability to work with the ABF and other agencies to bring those criminals who seek to profit from the illegal tobacco trade to justice and return revenue to the Australian people,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
The $70 million Taskforce is one of a suite of measures announced in this year’s Budget to crackdown on illicit tobacco smuggling, leakages from warehouses and domestic production; and complement new illicit tobacco penalties that are currently before Parliament.