ATO seizes illegal tobacco crop worth $5.8m

An illegal tobacco crop with a potential excise value of $5.8 million has been seized from a central Victorian property.

Fifteen acres of tobacco plants were seized at a property in Macorna, between Durham Ox and Kerang, following an ongoing investigation into illegally grown tobacco. 

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) seized and destroyed the crop as part of an excise warrant. 

ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston said the raid showed a continued resolve by the ATO to stamp out the illegal trade.

“It’s illegal to grow tobacco in Australia, and has been for more than a decade,” Mr Cranston said.

“Engaging in this kind of behaviour - whether it’s growing or buying black market tobacco - not only puts money into the hands of organised crime but takes away potential tax dollars from the Australian community.”

There are no licensed commercial tobacco producers or dealers in Australia.

Tuesday’s warrant action follows similar searches conducted in Victoria and NSW at the end of last year.

The ATO conducted the search warrants with the assistance from Victoria Police.

Mr Cranston said the community also played an important role in reducing the illegal tobacco trade.

“Property owners can help us by being aware of their surroundings, and knowing what is happening in their communities,” he said.

“Consider what is being grown on nearby properties - if something looks suspicious, contact the police.”