Australia: Illicit tobacco sold in shisha bars and tobacconists fueling organised crime and terrorism

The Advertiser, August 11, 2017.

Shisha stores and tobacconists are selling illegal tobacco in paper bags to punters, with the cash helping fund terrorism and organised crime, authorities warn.

This week, an Australian Border Force officer was one of eight arrested as part of an international tobacco ring, leading to allegations of corruption within the Government agency. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton apologised to the Force for the officer, saying “this besmirched 5500 officers who do a great job”.

“It just takes one bad apple … our job is to weed it out,” he said.

That bust came just weeks before a Parliamentary inquiry into illicit tobacco is due to report.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force have warned that illicit tobacco sold in shisha bars and tobacconists — often from paper bags hidden under the counter — is fuelling organised crime and terrorism.

In 2014-15 authorities detected 150 tonnes of shisha — also known as molasses tobacco — and loose-leaf tobacco — also known as chop chop — as well as 40 million cigarettes.

Under questioning from Nick Xenophon Team Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore during an Estimates inquiry ABF chief Roman Quaedvlieg conceded that no one had gone to jail for tobacco smuggling.

“I would like to see some imprisonment take place,” he said. When asked if anyone had been imprisoned, he said: “Not that I can find”.

He also said that it was clear there was more shisha coming into the country than was being declared.

“Again, one of the areas of potential concern is the amount of money that can be raised and then sent back to other parts of the world for nefarious purposes,” he said.

That low risk of incarceration, plus the high profits from high demand thanks to ever-increasing tobacco taxes, have made tobacco the industry of choice for certain criminal syndicates.

Senator Kakoschke-Moore said the arrests would be “a wake-up call” for the Government…