VIDEO: Bundy farmland used to grow $60m+ of illegal tobacco
UPDATE 3.30PM: AUTHORITIES have destroyed more than $60m worth of illegal tobacco found on farmland in the Bundaberg region after the longest Australian Tax Office investigation in Australian history.
Bundaberg Criminal Investigation Branch Detective Sergeant Andrew Self this afternoon told media the joint operation, led by the ATO, had run for more than 18 months.
Det Sgt Self said 16 ATO officers and 12 from the Queensland Police Service executed four simultaneous search warrants in the Pine Creek area yesterday.
Another one was executed today at North Isis near Childers.
Det Sgt Self said it was believed those behind the illegal tobacco had links to Victoria and were leasing land in the region from local farmers, who were unaware of what was going on.
"Persons from interstate have been leasing acreage on false pretences and producing tobacco," Det Sgt Self said.
"The tobacco is then sold as chop-chop interstate."
Det Sgt Self said the landowners had been told that the group was growing crops such as sweet potatoes.
He said a local contractor had been called in, working overnight, to destroy the 28.3 tonnes of tobacco plants and 45,000 seedlings, which covered some 53.5 acres.
"The excisable value of the crops destroyed was $30.05m," Det Sgt Self said.
"QPS street value of the tobacco is about double that."
He said it was believed each location was operated by the same group.
The ATO will determine if, and when, anyone will be charged.
"Police have worked closely with the Australian Border Force and the ATO regarding this matter," Det Sgt Self said.
"The ATO is the lead agency with regards to the illegal production of tobacco with investigative power."
INITIAL REPORT 3PM: IN the biggest cross-agency operation in the Australian Taxation Office's history, more than $60 million worth of illegal tobacco has been found on farmland in the Bundaberg region.
The operation spanned 18 months and uncovered the tobacco on local farmland around Pine Creek that police said was being leased by people from Victoria.
Charges have yet to be laid.
MORE TO COME