Tobacco raids

May 17, 2017

Tobacco blitz: Another large crop of tobacco was seized at a Yarroweyah property following raids in the region.

Two more large illegal tobacco plantations have been discovered, in Yarroweyah and Euroa, with a potential value of more than $10million.

The Australian Taxation Office executed three warrants in the past fortnight, uncovering and destroying illegal crops with a total excise value of $10.36million.

ATO officers, with assistance from Victoria Police, conducted raids at two properties in Yarroweyah and Euroa last week, uncovering crops spanning a total of 10.1ha — about seven football fields.

It’s the second crop seized in the region, after a crop worth $9million was found on a property near Cobram last month.

The ATO has also seized machinery used to assist in the cultivation and transport of the illicit tobacco and destroyed the two latest crops, rendering them unsaleable.

The third warrant was executed on May 4 at a farming property in Rosewhite, near Myrtleford, where 9000 illicit tobacco plants with a total estimated excise value of $750000 were discovered in 12 large hothouses.

Investigations are ongoing to determine the links between the three illegal operations, discovered during what is typically peak growing season for tobacco.

ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston said tip-offs from the community played an important role in building intelligence against those engaged in the illegal tobacco trade.

‘‘We investigate every tip-off and our frequent raids on illegal tobacco plantations show that those who participate in this type of criminal activity can’t hide from the ATO,’’ Mr Cranston said.

He said the illegal tobacco trade was not a victimless crime.

‘‘Many of the people involved with these operations are linked to serious organised crime.

‘‘The illicit tobacco trade saps precious community revenue which would otherwise be used to fund schools and hospitals and places it the hands of criminals.

‘‘Sadly, we have also seen landowners who are approached by these groups become complicit in their activity. These are serious offences and are dealt with according to the significance of the crime.’’

●If you have any information regarding suspicious or illegal activity, phone the ATO on 1800060062.

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