Man jailed for smuggling cigarettes from China hidden in sofa shipment

A Perth man who imported almost 100,000 cigarettes hidden inside a sofa shipment from China will now lounge around in jail for at least four months.

The cigarettes were concealed inside a shipping container that arrived in Fremantle from China in January, 2018.

Australian Border Force officers intercepted it and found 149 cardboard boxes containing modular sofas.

Their suspicions were raised when 10 of the boxes at the rear of the container were marked differently and scented air fresheners were scattered through the container.

One of the 10 boxes revealed a sofa, which was X-rayed and showed anomalies.

Further examination showed it was hiding dozens of cartons of cigarettes.

In total, 449 cigarette cartons, or 99,800 sticks, were seized.

The duty and GST payable on that amount of cigarettes at the time was just over $77,000.

In the next fortnight, ABF investigators raided the importer’s Queens Park home and Victoria Park business, seizing a mobile phone and documents relating to the purchase of cigarettes in China and the sale of cigarettes from his Victoria Park cafe.

The man did not have a license to sell tobacco products.

He was jailed on Friday for eight months, with a minimum four months, after being found guilty at trial in the Perth Magistrates Court.

The man was charged with one count of Importing tobacco products with intent to defraud the revenue.

The maximum penalty for the offence is 10 years jail, a fine of up to five times the amount of duty payable on the goods, or both.

In the 2019/20 financial year, the ABF seized more than 177 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and 422 million cigarettes, with the amount of duty evaded totalling some $611 million.

ABF Regional Commander Operations West, James Copeman, said the force was committed to busting tobacco smugglers.

“Whether it’s large scale criminal syndicates, individual profiteers such as this man, or smokers stockpiling personal supplies, our officers have the training and the technology to detect their illicit imports,” Commander Copeman said.

“Black market tobacco is a serious issue for Australia, and has far broader consequences than people buying cheap smokes under the counter.”

Customs Assistant Minister, Jason Wood, said all people involved in black market tobacco – whether it is growing, importing, supplying or buying – are putting money into the hands of organised crime.

“On top of that, they are depriving the Australian community of vital funding for services, and penalising retailers who abide by the law.

He said the government is committed to disrupting and dismantling the tobacco black market.

Anyone with information on the importation of illicit tobacco is encouraged to contact Border Watch.

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