Bundy residents urged to report illegal crops
UNTIL 1982, it was a legal rotational crop, but Bundaberg residents are being urged to report illegal tobacco growing in the region.
In the 2019/20 financial year, the Australian Taxation Office has seized and destroyed more than 131 tonnes of illicit tobacco nationally, representing an estimated excise forgone of $171 million.
The operation was undertaken as part of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce.
ATO officers carried out 19 search warrants with the assistances of the QPS, New South Wales Police, Victoria Police and Australian Border Force.
Assistant Commissioner Ian Read said these outcomes demonstrated the ATO’s commitment to disrupting organised crime syndicates that produce and supply illegal tobacco for sale on the black market in Australia.
“The trade in illicit tobacco products in Australia has widespread negative consequences across the community,” he said.
“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.
“We’re finding crops in regional and remote areas of the country, being grown on land being leased from unsuspecting owners under the guise of growing vegetables.”
In Queensland alone, eight tonnes of tobacco worth $10 million was seized and destroyed.
In March 2018, ATO and QPS officers executed multiple raids in the Pine Creek and North Isis areas where they found more than $30 million in tobacco crops, which held a street worth double the excisable value.
Until 1982, legal tobacco was a thriving crop in the Bundaberg region, often being grown as rotational crop with sugarcane.
People who suspect illegal tobacco is being grown in their area are being urged to report it.
Signs to look out for include intense labour production between November and May, suspicious inquiries about land for lease, unexplained use of water resources and large crops of leafy plants that may resemble kale, cabbage or corn.
Growing tobacco has been illegal in Australia for more than a decade and if convicted, growing it carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
If you suspect that illegal tobacco is being grown or manufactured in your community you can confidentially report it online at ato.gov.au/illicittobacco or by calling 1800 060 062.