Black Market Update..
Two Korean nationals were the first to be prosecuted by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions yesterday with the new increased penalties under the Customs Act 1901 for illegally importing tobacco.
A 23-year-old man and 30-year-old woman residing in Queensland were each sentenced to 20 months gaol, to serve three months, at the Brisbane District Court under section s233BABAD(2) of the Customs Act 1901 for conveying and possessing tobacco products with intent to defraud the revenue. They were also ordered to pay $100,332 reparation for the defrauded revenue.
The ACBPS investigation into the importation began in June 2013, following information provided by New South Wales Police, following a traffic stop of a light truck near Albury. Located within the truck were approximately 105,000 Korean cigarettes suspected of being smuggled and documents relating to rented storage units in Queensland and NSW.
Further investigation by ACBPS officers resulted in the interception of an air cargo consignment from Korea at Brisbane Airport on 26 June 2013. The consignment was labelled ‘metal boilers’ packed in large wooden crates. Examination of the metal boiler casings found approximately 95,000 cigarettes concealed inside.
Subsequent investigations and search warrant activity by ACBPS officers, working with Queensland Police, resulted in the man and women being arrested for possession of over 527,000 cigarettes in Brisbane on 27 June 2013. A further 692,000 cigarettes were also located at a Brisbane rented storage facility linked to the accused. This quantity of cigarettes equates to an evasion of customs duty of more than $430,000.
On 28 June 2013, further search warrants were executed on the Sydney residence of the accused, where a large sum of cash was located and seized. Cash seized during this investigation was referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Criminal Assets Confiscation Task Force, and a total of $332,050 has been forfeited pursuant to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Over one million cigarettes, a van and a truck were also seized during the investigation.
ACBPS Acting Commander Investigations, Compliance and Enforcement, Ross Viles, praised the cooperative effort between ACBPS, New South Wales Police, Queensland Police and the AFP.
“I would like to thank our law enforcement partners for their support in this investigation,” Mr Viles said.
“This will be the first instance of prosecution and sentencing under the increased penalties for tobacco smuggling introduced in November 2012 under the Customs Act 1901.”
“The new penalties are up to ten years’ imprisonment, in addition to pecuniary penalties of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.”
The legislative changes were brought into effect to more accurately reflect the risks that illicit tobacco poses to the Australian community, the seriousness of tobacco smuggling, as well as providing a strong deterrent to criminals.
A third co-accused will be sentenced at a later date for aid and abet charges under the Criminal Code Act 1995.