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Detection at new container examination facility sends strong message to smugglers.



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Media Release

SENATOR THE HON. CHRISTOPHER ELLISON

Minister for Justice and Customs

Senator for Western Australia

E174 20 December 2002

Detection at new container examination facility sends strong message to smugglers

The newly launched Customs container examination facility in Melbourne has sent a strong message to people attempting to smuggle prohibited items into Australia, with a detection of 3.8 million cigarettes last week the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said today.

“The duty which would have been payable on this amount of cigarettes, had they been legitimately imported, would have amounted to $800,000,” Senator Ellison said.

“The saving of $800 000 in revenue for taxpayers is the first instalment in the facility paying for itself.

“Any attempt to defraud the Commonwealth is not a victimless crime. Avoiding the payment of Customs duty is viewed very seriously. Whenever tax is evaded, honest taxpayers pay more.”

A shipping container, targeted by Customs officers for x-ray at the new facility, showed an anomaly in the scan that once unpacked and searched proved to be cigarettes.

“The shipment was declared to Customs as radio headphones. Inside the container Customs officers found 405 packages, 25 consisting of radio headphones and 380 of cigarettes,” Senator Ellison said.

On Monday 16 December Customs officers executed search warrants at a business in Sunshine and two residential properties in Newport. Investigations are continuing into the illegal importation attempt.

“Customs is to be congratulated for its vigilance in once again protecting the community,” Senator Ellison said.

“This seizure demonstrates the examination facility’s ability to dramatically increase Customs capacity to detect prohibited goods, and its potential to produce further results.”

This year to date, Customs has seized over 50 million cigarettes with a potential revenue loss of over $10 million.

Prime Minister John Howard commissioned the Melbourne facility, which will inspect at least 100 containers a day, on 26 November 2002.

Media inquiries: Mairi Barton 02 6277 7260 or 0439 300 335 (Minister’s office)

Leon Bedington 02 6275 6793 or 0418 740 980 (Customs)