The Turnbull Government is continuing the fight against illicit tobacco, with the Parliament today passing legislation to create a comprehensive set of offences targeting illicit tobacco.
These changes deliver on the 2016-17 Budget commitment to stop the illegal tobacco trade which the Australian Taxation Office has identified as a major revenue source for organised crime.
The law provides for fault-based offences and reasonable suspicion offences that can apply to illicit tobacco. The penalties take into account the seriousness of the offence and provide a deterrent to illegal activities.
Maximum penalties for the fault-based offences will be 10 years imprisonment and courts may impose heavy fines for offences involving commercial quantities of illicit tobacco, for example up to $2.25 million where the tobacco weighs at least 500 kilograms. Maximum penalties for the reasonable suspicion offences will be 5 years imprisonment, and courts may impose heavy fines of up to $210,000 where the tobacco weighs at least 500 kilograms.
This legislation, with complementary Customs Act changes that passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, will deliver a comprehensive penalty and offences regime to deter and prosecute illicit tobacco activity.
Combined with the newly established Illicit Tobacco Taskforce, permit requirements for tobacco importers and changes to tax tobacco at the border announced in the 2018-19 Budget, the Turnbull Government is putting the illicit tobacco market on notice.
Minister O'Dwyer said "The Turnbull Government is enacting the most comprehensive suite of reforms to address illicit tobacco of any Government."
"We are giving the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce all the tools it needs to identify and prosecute illicit tobacco activity."
The Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor said these changes will provide agencies with the tools necessary to stamp out the flow of illicit tobacco.
"Tobacco is one of the most highly taxed commodities in Australia and across the world, which makes illicit tobacco an attractive market for organised criminal syndicates," Mr Taylor said.
"Illicit tobacco smugglers are ripping off taxpayers, as well as small business, and channelling the lucrative profits into organised crime.
"Our message to organised crime is that we will target you, track you down to the corners of the earth, and bring you to justice."
There will be a comprehensive set of offences aimed at stopping the importation, possession, purchase, sale and production of illicit tobacco.