An illegal tobacco crop with a potential value of $9million has been seized and destroyed by the Australian Taxation Office as part of an excise operation in Cobram last week.
A tobacco crop spanning 5.05ha and tobacco leaves weighing 5.4tonnes were located on a property as part of the operation, which began last Monday and was completed on Thursday.
Three trucks, one tractor and a trailer were also seized during the operation, with the assistance of Victoria Police.
Last week’s warrant action was the fourth in as many months, with similar searches uncovering millions of dollars’ worth of illegal tobacco in NSW and Victoria.
ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston said the wider community played an important role in helping to stamp out the illegal tobacco trade.
‘‘We found this crop based on information provided to us by Victoria Police,’’ Mr Cranston said.
‘‘If you have a suspicion that illegal activity is taking place on a property in your community, you should contact the authorities.’’
It has been illegal to grow tobacco in Australia for more than a decade, with no licensed tobacco producers growing the crop since 2006.
Mr Cranston said the illegal tobacco trade took potential tax dollars away from the government and put it into the hands of organised criminals.
‘‘If landowners are approached by these groups, they can be become inadvertently complicit in the illicit activity. Our message is that if you are involved in this kind of behaviour, you will be caught,’’ he said.
‘‘This seizure further demonstrates that those who participate in illegal activity cannot hide from the ATO.’’
The tobacco crop was ploughed into the ground, rendering it unsaleable.
Investigations are ongoing.
Moira Shire Council confirmed it provided assistance in the warrant as requested by Victoria Police and the ATO.
●If you suspect illegal activity, phone the ATO on 1800060062.