Five men arrested after ABF takes down illicit tobacco smuggling ring. Australian Border Force

Five men have been arrested following a 10-month-long investigation on illicit tobacco-importing syndicate in Sydney. The Australian Border Force (ABF) have executed multiple warrants for the syndicate, which it believes attempted to import tobacco worth approximately $6.7 million in evaded tax.

According to the ABF, the syndicate tried to import around 4,000 mail packages containing about four tonnes of loose tobacco and three million cigarettes. They also allegedly attempted to import sea cargo consignments, which were declared as “toilets” and “speakers” but actually contained about 340,000 cigarettes.

The syndicate apparently used several methods to import the tobacco, including packages destined for fake addresses scanned as “delivered’ but were kept by the delivery drivers. Three delivery drivers were among the five arrested.

The men — aged 28, 34, 36, 36 and 61 — have been charged with either importing or possessing smuggled tobacco under the Customs Act 1901. They are facing a maximum 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

“We are talking about thousands of packages we’ve detected over the past 10 months, containing four tonnes of loose leaf tobacco and three million cigarettes, which would have defrauded the Commonwealth of millions of dollars of legitimate revenue,” ABF Investigations A/g Commander Clinton Sims said in a statement. He added that the profits from the illegal operation would undoubtedly have funded future criminal activities.

“The arrest of these individuals, including delivery drivers, should send a clear message to organised crime groups about the ABF’s ability to investigate, detect and disrupt illicit tobacco, anywhere in the supply chain.”

Five men arrested after ABF takes down illicit tobacco smuggling ring

Five men arrested after ABF takes down illicit tobacco smuggling ring

Earlier this month, a foreign female airline crew member has been refused entry to Australia and subsequently removed back to Indonesia after being caught attempting to smuggle 10 cartons of cigarettes through Perth Airport. An ABF officer observed the woman entering a toilet just before her bag was screened to be x-rayed. She was caught dumping the cartons of cigarettes into a bin.