The two masterminds behind an attempt to smuggle a record-breaking 9.5-million cigarettes into Western Australia from Vietnam have been sentenced to almost five years jail.
This importation remains the biggest illicit cigarette detection in the state’s history and represents an attempt to evade more than $8.5-million in Duty and GST.
Australian Border Force (ABF) officers intercepted the consignment at the Fremantle Container Examination Facility on 31 October 2018.
Anomalies identified in shipping container
Anomalies were identified when the 40-foot container was x-rayed and an ABF detector dog also gave a reaction indicating the presence of tobacco.
The physical examination of the container revealed an initial layer of boxes of plastic panels, but behind that officers found the rest of it packed full of boxes of cigarettes manufactured in South East Asia.
According to the ABF, the final count was 47,500 cartons of cigarettes worth more than $7.66-million in evaded duty and $862,000 of GST.
Two cousins plead guilty to the charges
On 16 November 2020, the two men, who are cousins aged 31 and 38, each pleaded guilty in the Perth Magistrates Court to one count of Importing Tobacco Products with the Intention of Defrauding the Revenue under the Customs Act.
On the same day a third man, aged 47, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge relating to the importation. Later in the same month, he was sentenced in the Perth District Court to two years and four months jail, but released on a $3,000 recognisance to be of good behaviour for a period of two years.
This week in the Perth District Court, the two masterminds were each jailed for four years and 10 months, with a minimum period of two years before becoming eligible for parole.
Was a ‘big case’ says the Border Force
ABF Acting Commander of Operations West, Felicity Horrocks, acknowledged the combined efforts of the officers at the container examination facility who made the detection, and the investigators who pulled together the evidence.
“This was a big case by every measure, with investigators executing 12 warrants in the 10 months following the detection,” Horrocks stated.
“As we’ve said many times before, tobacco and cigarette smuggling is not a victimless crime – with profits from illegal sales in Australia often being used to fund other criminal activity, both here and overseas.”