Baker in Australia made plenty of dough smuggling in two tonnes of tobacco

A Perth bakery owner imported more than two tonnes of tobacco illegally into Australia, defrauding the Commonwealth to the tune of almost $2 million, a WA court was told.

For the first time, details of the Australian Border Force (ABF) illicit tobacco importation investigation can be made public.

The ABF operation in Perth in 2016 led to father of three Ma’ad Abdul Muna’m Al Raziqi getting a five year jail term in the WA District Court after he pleaded guilty to eight charges.

The court was told how Al Raziqi, 45, defrauded the Comonwealth of more than $1.8 million as a result of six separate tobacco imports, weighing around 2.3 tonnes in all.

The court was told how in October 2016, ABF officers examined a consignment addressed to the father of three and Wangara bakery owner, who came to Australia from Iraq in 1999.

The consignment contained ten boxes lconsigned as aromatherapy incense with the slogan: “The best feeling comes when you realise that you are perfectly happy without the things once you thought you once needed the most”.

Inside each box were silver foil packets, also labelled as aromatherapy incense.

Within each packet was a further plastic packet with another label.

When this label was peeled back it revealed the words: “Al Fakher Molasses, Al Fakher Tobacco Trading Company, made in the UAE”.

On further inspection it was found that each plastic packet contained approx one kilogram of tobacco. The gross weight of the packets was just under 500 kilograms.

Further inquiries by the ABF revealed Al Raziqi had earlier imported five other similar consignments into Australia using the same method.

In each case, the consignment was cleared without any customs duty being paid.

A warrant was executed at Al Raziqi’s bakery where more illegally imported tobacco goods were found.

The court heard by the time the offending was discovered, a lot of the previously imported tobacco had been sold on Gumtree or eBay in one-kilogram lots for $120 each.

Al Raziqi’s lawyer Curt Hoffman told the court the entire enterprise wasn’t particularly brilliant.

“There’s an element of deception there. We accknowledge that, but it wasn’t particularly sophisticated,” he said.

“I’m frankly, quite astounded it wasn’t detected much earlier but there you have it.”

Australian Border Force Superintendent Clint Sims described the successful prosecution of Al Raziqi as a great result and should act as a warning to others.

“This is an excellent result and highlights how seriously the ABF considers any attempt to defraud Commonwealth revenue through the import of illegal tobacco products,” he said.

“The dangerous health risks associated with cigarettes are well known, however, illicit cigarettes pose an even greater risk as the source of the tobacco and the conditions in which it is manufactured are unknown.”

In October 2015, the ABF formed a ‘Tobacco Strike Team’ to combat organised criminal syndicates attempting to smuggle illicit tobacco into Australia.

Their sole focus is to target the most serious and organised elements of the illicit tobacco trade.

Since 2015 the strike team has seized more than 104 tonnes of smuggled tobacco and 233 million smuggled cigarettes.

Al Raziqi must serve two-and-a-half years in prison before being eligible for parole.

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Henry Sapiecha

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