Monday 18 December 2017

Australian Al Capones

In September, I listed some of the cases of cigarette smuggling and illegal tobacco production that have been reported in the Australian media this year. The scale and frequency of these events is striking. Millions of cigarettes are being seized in a single raid. Tobacco crops worth $10 million or more are being found in the outback. Needless to say, the quantities seized are trivial compared to the quantities that get through.

The anti-smoking lobby said it wouldn't happen but, as this article in the Sydney Morning Herald makes clear, it has. It's time they took ownership of it.

Border Force estimates nearly 15 per cent of all tobacco sold in Australia has been illegally imported to avoid local taxes. And little wonder. The price of cigarettes has doubled in the last six years, with a packet expected to cost $40 in just over two years.

... The figures are staggering. Border Force have created Tobacco Strike Teams that have in the last 12 months seized 96 million illegally imported cigarettes from one organised crime group. In two years from 2015 they have seized 400 tonnes of tobacco that would have evaded excise of $294 million. In the last financial year, the total was around 180 million fags weighing 174 tonnes.

... In 2016-17, there were 190 cigarette-related armed robberies and more than 450 commercial burglaries targeting the product. When you consider the crooks can sell a stolen packet for $10 a pop, no questions asked, you can see the profit margin is immense.

Australia's illicit trade runs the gamut of small time crooks, robbery, industrial scale production, international smuggling rings and corrupt officials. It's not hard to see why...

Let's look at the maths. If you were to invest $200,000 in cocaine, you could expect a return of $1.6 million. Invest the same amount in smuggled cigarettes from China and the return would be $10 million.
... The laws on plain packaging of cigarettes - designed to strip the addictive product of any advertising gloss - have made it difficult for police to link recovered stolen packets to the source of the robbery, as the packs don't have identifiable registration numbers.

I recommend reading the whole article.

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