‘Concerns’ over illegal-trade proceeds

| December 6, 2016

Senior border security officials in Australia are warning that the illegal trade in tobacco products could be linked to drug trafficking and fundraising by terrorists, according to a story by Nick McKenzie for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

In what was tagged an exclusive interview with the ABC’s 7.30 program and Fairfax Media, Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Wayne Buchhorn, who has been seconded to the Australian Border Force (ABF), said he had “significant” concerns that some of the proceeds from the booming trade in illicit tobacco products in Australia were flowing to extremist groups overseas.

“We are seeing crime gangs here in Australia, oftentimes Middle Eastern organised crime gangs, and the connections back into the Middle East … [are] a significant concern for us in the current environment,” he said.

“The funding of extremist activities, we are seeing some elements of that.”

7.30 said it could reveal that ABF investigations into organised crime were being stymied by the agency’s lack of modern powers, including the ability to use tracking devices or, in some circumstances, conduct raids and arrest suspects without the backing of the Federal Police.

With border security a significant political issue, albeit focused mostly on people smuggling, the revelations about the proceeds of tobacco smuggling will put pressure on the federal government to respond to concerns about the ABF’s powers and resourcing.

Buchhorn’s investigators, along with the New South Wales and federal police, have uncovered smuggling syndicates in Sydney using fronts to obtain federal government licences to operate freight depots or customs broking agencies. These are then used to facilitate further contraband importations.

“It is used to fund drug importations. There is also evidence it is utilised in other serious organised crime type activities,” Buchhorn was quoted as saying.

“That has the potential to cause corruption within government agencies and more broadly. So the potential for that to be a national risk for me is very real.”

The US State Department has described international tobacco smuggling as a ‘threat to national security’, while the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development have also recently raised serious concerns about the impact of the illegal trade.

The full story is at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-05/illegal-tobacco-trade-fuelling-drug-trafficking-and-terrorism/8075174.

Category: Breaking News

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