$84 million worth of illegal tobacco destroyed in police blitz

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More than 400-tonnes of illegal tobacco worth nearly $85 million has been seized and destroyed by authorities along the NSW and Victoria border in a two-day police crackdown.

Spanning across a combined 100-acres, the crops and processed tobacco bales were located at three locations across the two states in Kyalite, NSW and Vinifera and Beverford in Victoria.

On March 3, officers from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Australian Border Force (ABF) and NSW Police located and destroyed more than 183 tonnes of tobacco across 65 acres of crops in Kyalite.

The tobacco crops being destroyed. (ATO)

The crops had a total potential street value of more than $36 million.

Later that day, ATO officers and Victoria Police located another 29 acres of crops in Beverford, destroying 183 tonnes of tobacco plants and 140kg of processed tobacco bales, worth more than $36.3 million in total.

The following day, authorities attended a third property, in Vinifera, and destroyed 60.7 tonnes of illegal tobacco, worth $12 million.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Ian Read said it was “one of the biggest weeks disrupting illegal tobacco in Australia”.

“Tobacco growing operations are not run by small producers or farmers. They are run by organised crime syndicates who deliberately engage in illegal activities to fund their extravagant lifestyles and other criminal activity,” Mr Read said.

The crops had an estimated street value of over $84 million. (ATO)

“Engaging in the illicit tobacco trade is not a victimless crime. It significantly deprives the community of taxes that are required to fund essential community services such as roads, schools and hospitals.”

“I urge people to keep reporting any activity they suspect may involve the production of illicit tobacco.

“Signs to look out for include intense labour production between November and May, suspicious enquiries about land for lease, unexplained use of water resources and large crops of leafy plants that resemble kale, cabbage or corn and may have a pink flower growing on top.”

It is estimated in Australia that illegal tobacco trade is worth $822 million and carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

It has not been legal to grow tobacco in Australia since 2006.

The three crops, which were located along the NSW / Victorian border spanned across 100 acres. (ATO)