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Customs smashes major cigarette smuggling racket.



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Media Release SENATOR THE HON. CHRISTOPHER ELLISON Minister for Justice and Customs

Senator for Western Australia

E127/02 4 October 2002

Customs smashes major cigarette smuggling racket

Customs has made its biggest ever single seizure of smuggled cigarettes, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said today.

Two men have been charged in relation to the seizure of a total of more than 8.4 million undeclared cigarettes that were discovered in a sea cargo container that had been landed at Port Botany in Sydney from Shanghai, China.

The duty which would have been payable on the cigarettes, if they had been legitimately imported, would have amounted to $1,785,000.

“It is still to be finally determined whether the cigarettes are counterfeit or genuine but regardless this is a major attempt to cheat the Australian taxpayer of millions of dollars,” Senator Ellison said.

“Any attempt to defraud the Commonwealth of legitimate revenue is viewed very seriously. Whenever tax is evaded, honest taxpayers pay more. Black market cigarettes distort sales to the point where jobs are threatened and the market share of legitimate manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers is eroded.”

Senator Ellison said Customs officers selected the container for examination on Tuesday. The contents of the container had been declared as quartz clocks, but the examination revealed 32 boxes of clocks and 701 boxes filled with cigarettes. A new Customs pallet x-ray machine was used to identify the contents of the boxes.

“On Wednesday, Customs officers, assisted by the Australian Federal Police, monitored the delivery of the container from Port Botany to a storage warehouse at Kingsgrove in Sydney’s southern suburbs,” Senator Ellison said. “Two people at the warehouse were subsequently arrested.”

A 23-year-old man from Ashfield in Sydney and a 20-year-old man from Bardwell Park in Sydney appeared in Sutherland Local Court yesterday. They were remanded to reappear in Downing Centre Local Court on 5 November. The 20-year-old is charged with smuggling goods and the 23-year-old is charged with aiding and abetting in the smuggling of goods.

Senator Ellison said Customs was to be congratulated for smashing the cigarette smuggling racket.

“This is the largest single seizure of smuggled cigarettes that has been made to date,” Senator Ellison said. “The packets of cigarettes were marked as two leading brands and stated they were manufactured in the USA. They even have Australian health warnings printed on them.

“Further investigations are being conducted to determine whether they are genuine product or a very sophisticated fake.”

So far this year, Customs has made 20 major seizures of cigarettes and tobacco - a total of more than 46.2 million cigarettes and more than 11 tonnes of tobacco.

Media inquiries: Mairi Barton Ph 02 6277 7260 or 0439 300 335 (To view the smuggled cigarettes, contact Chris Schofield, Customs, 02 9213 2008 or 0418 281 501)