Freight-Forwarding Insiders Charged With Smuggling Tobacco Into Australia

This cigarette brand is only found in the illegal trade in Australia, according to authorities (ABF/AFP)

Published Feb 27, 2024 9:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

A logistics professional and five accomplices have been charged with trying to smuggle $10 million worth of cigarettes into Australia, and authorities believe that the scheme was connected to a Middle Eastern crime syndicate. 

Australian authorities will allow a handful of cigarettes over the border duty-free - but not millions of them. The Australian Border Force says that agents in Victoria discovered a cargo of 10 million illicit cigarettes that arrived on a ship from Vietnam on February 3, leading to a series of arrests this week. 

Two people charged in the scheme had access to shipping data systems, the ABF alleged, and they manipulated records for the consignment in an attempt to hide it. The fact that logistics insiders were arrested made this bust different, authorities said, and it could be disruptive to smugglers' operations. 

One of these men is accused of planning and arranging the importation, and allegedly accessed freight forwarding systems to set up and conceal the shipment. He stands accused of "using trusted insiders with knowledge of the transport and freight logistics industry" to smuggle the tobacco consignment. 

A second man was employed in logistics and allegedly helped the syndicate to pick up and move the cargo. The other three were accused of related offenses for illicit distribution of tobacco. Several of the men are believed to be linked to a Middle Eastern organized crime syndicate, which is suspected of being behind a series of illicit tobacco imports into Victoria. 


The illicit cigarette trade is a multibillion-dollar enterprise in Australia, and it costs the government millions in unpaid tax revenue. 

"This type of crime corrupts people in trusted positions [in logistics] . . . and there's no doubt that there's others out there," a police official told reporters at a press conference Tuesday. "We're going to continue to investigate." 

Top image: Marco Verch / CC BY 2.0