French cigarette smuggler says ‘au revoir’ to $20,000

A French national with permanent residency in Australia has said ‘au revoir’ to over $20,000 after being sentenced in a Perth court for attempting to smuggle 29 cartons of cigarettes across the border.

The 67-year-old, who lives in Sydney, was caught at Perth International Airport on 11 October 2018 after returning on a flight from Dubai.

Biosecurity officers noticed anomalies in an x-ray of the man’s baggage and referred him to Australian Border Force (ABF) officers who located 29 cartons and two loose packets of cigarettes.

In total there were 5,840 cigarettes, which at the time would have attracted Duty payable of $4,714.

On his Incoming Passenger Card (IPC) the man declared he did not have more than the Duty free allowance of 25 cigarettes.

The man later admitted he purchased the cigarettes in France and Egypt, and claimed they were for personal use.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to three charges, and on Friday, 28 August 2020, the Deputy Chief Magistrate in Perth imposed the following penalties:

•$2,500 – cigarette smuggling under s233(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1901

•$9,450 – evasion of duty under s234(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1901

•$2,000 – making false statement under s234(1)(d)(i) of the Customs Act 1901, as well as

•$6,450 – Prosecution court costs.

In total the man was ordered to pay $20,400 – more than four times the amount of Duty he was trying to evade.

ABF Regional Commander for WA, James Copeman, said the case should serve as a warning to all would-be cigarette and tobacco smugglers.

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

“ABF officers based at our international airports are constantly on the lookout for travellers attempting to bring in more than their duty free allowance of cigarettes and tobacco.

“We expect passengers to be truthful in their declarations, and those who aren’t risk significant penalties.”

Last financial year (2019/20) the ABF seized more than 175 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and 421 million cigarettes, with the amount of duty evaded totalling some $608 million.