Australia Charges "Inside-Job" Tobacco Smugglers

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Updated Published

A logistics expert along with five others have been indicted for attempting to illicitly import cigarettes valued at $10 million into Australia, with suspicions linking the operation to a Middle Eastern organized crime group.

The Australian Border Force notes that while a small quantity of cigarettes can enter Australia without incurring duty, a shipment of millions is certainly not permissible. On February 3, agents in Victoria intercepted a shipment containing 10 million illegal cigarettes shipped from Vietnam, leading to multiple arrests during the week.

According to the ABF, two individuals involved in the operation had access to shipping databases and are accused of altering records to conceal the consignment. The involvement of logistics professionals in the smuggling attempt distinguishes this case, suggesting it could significantly hinder smuggling activities.

One individual is specifically charged with orchestrating the importation and is alleged to have used his access to freight forwarding systems to organize and disguise the shipment. He is accused of exploiting "trusted insiders with knowledge of the transport and freight logistics industry" for smuggling the tobacco.

Another individual, working in logistics, is allegedly implicated in assisting the syndicate in retrieving and transporting the contraband. The remaining three face charges related to the illegal distribution of tobacco. Many of them are suspected to have connections with a Middle Eastern crime syndicate believed to be responsible for multiple unlawful tobacco imports into Victoria.

Illicit trade in cigarettes represents a billion-dollar industry in Australia, leading to significant tax revenue losses for the government.

A police spokesperson at a press briefing on Tuesday emphasized, "This type of crime corrupts people in trusted positions [in logistics] . . . and there's no doubt that there's others out there," pledging ongoing investigations into such criminal activities.