The largest ever drug interception operation coordinated by ACT Policing has seen approximately 384 kilograms of cocaine seized and two men charged with drug importation offences. Earlier this year, ACT Policing received information relating to a possible drug importation syndicate operating in southern New South Wales and the ACT. Read more
Australian Border Force (ABF) officers in Sydney have stopped approximately 256 litres of the narcotic Gamma Butyrolactone (GBL, taken as GHB) declared as compressor oil from reaching Australian streets. ABF officers targeted an air cargo shipment consisting of 16 boxes labelled as ‘compressor oil’ for inspection. Each box was found to contain a number of bottles.
X-rays revealed inconsistencies in the contents of some of the bottles. Further testing revealed approximately 128 litres of GBL secreted throughout the shipment. On 26 April, ABF officers selected an identical consignment for inspection. Upon examination, it was also found to contain approximately 128 litres of GBL. Both detections remain under investigation.
It’s very easy to take too much
ABF Superintendent Investigations NSW Garry Low said this detection should serve as a warning to those thinking of importing or exporting illegal substances. “GBL can ruin your life in a single incident. It is an incredibly dangerous substance with a very high overdose rate,” Superintendent Low said. “The ABF screens tens of millions of articles each year, and the fact we are able to pinpoint individual shipments and detect and seize these drugs at the border is a testament to the skills of our officers.” Anyone with information about the importation of illicit substances should contact Border Watch at: www.australia.gov.au/borderwatch.
Australian Border Force (ABF) officers have charged a man after he allegedly attempted to smuggle more than 10 million cigarettes into Australia in sea cargo containers. On 10 October 2018, ABF officers identified two containers at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility. Upon further examination, both were found to contain pallets of illicit cigarettes. The total amount of cigarettes concealed in both containers is estimated to be 10,034,000, worth more than AUD $8.9 million in evaded duty. On 17 October 2018, ABF officers executed a warrant at a business address in Campbellfield and seized a number of electronic devices. On 22 October 2018, a 40-year-old man was arrested by ABF investigators and charged with one count of contravening section 233BABAD (2A) of the Customs Act 1901. He appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court and was granted conditional bail, to reappear on 21 January 2019. ABF Victoria Regional Investigations Superintendent Nicholas Walker said the operation would make a significant dent in the supply of illicit tobacco in Victoria. “This is a significant detection – we’ve been able to prevent the Commonwealth being defrauded of more than $8.9 million in legitimate revenue,” Superintendent Walker said. “Illicit tobacco is an international issue, with much of the profits from cigarettes sold illegally in Australia being used to fund other criminal activity both here and overseas.” “The ABF is committed to working with our international partners to detect, investigate and disrupt those involved in the illegal tobacco trade – and to stop the profits from these smuggling operations from funding further criminal activity.”
The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded. The illicit tobacco market in Australia is worth about $600 million a year in evaded revenue. Targeting and dismantling this criminal activity is an operational priority for the ABF. You can help In addition to operations like this, the ABF is also leading the new Illicit Tobacco Taskforce that combines the resources of the ABF, Department of Home Affairs, ACIC, the Australian Taxation Office, AUSTRAC and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Anyone with information on the illegal importation of illicit tobacco is encouraged to contact Border Watch at Australia.gov.au/borderwatch. This can be done anonymously.
Almost 60 million cigarettes have been seized as part of a joint operation targeting illicit tobacco, significantly disrupting a large criminal syndicate operating in multiple states and territories. The joint investigation involved officers from the Australian Border Force (ABF), the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and NSW Police Force. The complex investigation began in June 2017, following information received from ACIC which uncovered large scale illicit tobacco importation and money laundering undertaken by a serious organised crime syndicate with links to South East Asia. The ten subsequent seizures ranged from 38,000 cigarettes to more than 20 million in each consignment. Some were concealed among legitimate goods while others filled entire shipping containers that were deliberately declared as other items. In total, the cigarettes represented more than $40 million in evaded duty. As a result of this investigation, a number of individuals have been identified and possible charges will be laid. On March 1 this year, the QPS arrested two men on the Gold Coast and it is expected that they will face charges relating to money laundering. ABF Superintendent Leo Lahey from the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce said the operation was an example of what can be achieved when we pool the resources of our state, federal and international law enforcement and intelligence partners. “These seizures also highlight the critical need to combat the illicit tobacco trade. This work will be tasked to the new multi-agency ABF-led Illicit Tobacco Task Force which was stood up this week. Working collaboratively across agencies in this way will always be critical to success,” Superintendent Lahey said. The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce combines the resources of the ABF, Department of Home Affairs, ACIC, the Australian Taxation Office, AUSTRAC and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. ACIC Queensland State Manager Charlie Carver said serious and organised crime groups are more attracted to the Australian illicit tobacco market than ever before. “Organised crime has no borders and these significant results demonstrate the benefits of state, territory and Commonwealth agencies working together,” Mr Carver said. Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker of the Queensland Police Service Drug and Serious Crime Group said organised crime syndicates engineer a transnational grab for cash through a combination of legitimate and criminal enterprises. “We will continue to target and disrupt organised crime groups involved in money laundering as these proceeds are used to distribute illicit commodities causing great harm to our community,” Detective Superintendent Wacker said. “Engaging in the illegal tobacco trade supports organised crime syndicates and we will exploit every opportunity to dismantle their networks and recover funds and prosecute organised crime syndicates. The maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is ten years imprisonment, and penalties of up to five times the amount of duty evaded can also be imposed by the courts.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton used his opening address at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) Industry Summit on Monday morning (31 July 2017) to assure those in the private supply chain and their clients that the current work agenda would be maintained under the proposed Home Affairs department. Along with the Acting Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF), Minister Dutton reiterated that the ABF would continue in its traditional ‘Customs’ role and the ABF, as part of the DIBP, would also continue its vital engagement with industry and development of trade facilitation measures to assist in the legitimate trade in goods and movement in people. At the time of the announcement of the creation of the new Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the focus of the commentary was on national and border security issues with no comment on the traditional ‘Customs’ role of the ABF or its ongoing engagement with industry and the facilitation of international trade at the border. Naturally, there were some concerns that the failure to address these important roles could mean that the importance of those roles was being downgraded and that momentum on various initiatives here and overseas could be lost with an increased focus on security and intervention in trade. Both speakers made the point that the involvement of the ABF with the DHA would allow the ABF to have access to additional information at an earlier stage than is presently the case, which would actually enhance the ability of the ABF to carry out its roles. These outcomes were all consistent with the theme of the industry summit being “Border Innovation: strengthening our nation’s economy, security and society.” In terms of the work of the DIBP and the ABF in the engagement with industry in relation to the movement of goods, there was reference to recent achievements and future commitments with such initiatives as:
The creation of a ‘single window’ for trade such as in Singapore and New Zealand.
The expansion of the Australian Trusted Trader Program (ATTP).
The recent completion of four Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) with other customs services for those in the ATTP.
The promise of more MRA with customs services in other trading partners.
The development and implementation of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) to improve the use of those current and future FTAs by the adoption of robust Rules of Origin, enhanced border clearance facilitation.
The increased use of more advance technology and reporting systems.
There were similar references to commitments in the migration space as relating to the movement of persons. The comments provide a degree of assurance to industry that the current work agenda would be maintained and developed and that the engagement with industry remained a priority. While the reference to the achievements and initiative represents only a reiteration of those developments currently known to industry, their clear support from the Federal Government filled in a gap in the story that arose with the announcements relating to the DHA. Industry looks forward to continued engagement on these projects and its ongoing collaborative work with government, whether the DIBP, the ABF or other agencies that have a role at the border. Andrew Hudson is Partner with Rigby Cooke Lawyers’ Litigation Team, specialising in all areas of trade including international trade conventions, dispute resolution and arbitration, trade financing options, commodity and freight contracts as well as dealing with regulation of the movement of goods at the border by all Government agencies. He is also a member of many of the consultative bodies established by Government in the trade space, including the National Committee on Trade Facilitation convened by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the International Trade Remedies Forum convened by the Anti – Dumping Commission (ADC) as well as associated sub-committees. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Export Council of Australia (ECA) and the Food and Beverage Importers Association (FBIA) and works closely with other industry associations representing those in the supply chain.