Over 10 retailers in Fairfield and Cabramatta are selling illicit tobacco

Illicit tobacco trade: Seven businesses, including six from Fairfield, were raided as part of investigation into counterfeit tobacco trade on August 7, 2014.
Illicit tobacco trade: Seven businesses, including six from Fairfield, were raided as part of investigation into counterfeit tobacco trade on August 7, 2014.

CABRAMATTA and Fairfield have been identified as Australia's top two suburbs to have the highest number of retailers selling illicit tobacco.

Investigations carried out by imperial Tobacco Australia, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco Australia last year found that the estimated number of traders selling illicit tobacco in Cabramatta and Fairfield was more than 10.

This is compared to Canley Heights which had between seven and nine, Smithfield which had four to six and Canley Vale, Carramar, Fairfield West, Fairfield Heights and Wakeley which each had up to three retailers selling illicit tobacco.

In March, 2013 Cabramatta police charged a man, who owned a tobacconist in John Street, Cabramatta, with five counts of possessing goods with a false trademark.

"We seized over $750,000 worth of counterfeit tobacco and the man received a $2500 fine," Cabramatta crime manager Detective Inspector Darren Newman said.

"It's obviously a much bigger problem. It's something we focus on and we need to get more information from the public about rogue traders."

He said Cabramatta police would continue to work with law enforcement agencies, as well as the tobacco industry, to identify "dodgy" traders and take action against them.

Fairfield commander Detective Superintendent Peter Lennon agreed and said Fairfield police gathered intelligence from the community and government sources such as the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force and NSW consumer affairs.

"We investigate and assist to prosecute such matters," he said.

"This illicit trade is an ongoing crime that we focus on."

The Illicit Tobacco in Australia 2014 report, released last week, stated nearly 2.6 million kilograms of illegal tobacco was consumed last year alone, with the tobacco black market rocketing by 30 per cent since 2013.

The KPMG report, commissioned by the world's biggest tobacco companies, also found that cigarettes in Australia were now among the most expensive in the Asia Pacific region, costing about seven times more than in countries like China and South Korea, where much of the illegal tobacco is sourced.

It concludes that the black market costs the Federal Government $1.35 billion in lost taxes.

Managing director for Philip Morris Limited John Gledhill said retailers could be fined up to $340,000 for selling tobacco products that breached plain packaging laws.

"As cigarette smuggling continues to grow in Australia, the government must enforce the law and prosecute people caught selling illicit tobacco," he said.

Photo: Nic Walker.

Photo: Nic Walker.

Consumption of counterfeit products bites into revenue:

■Grew by 7 per cent in 2014 and now represents 14.5 per cent of total tobacco consumption.

■Was approximately 17.5 million kilograms, of which almost 2.6 million kilograms is estimated to be illicit.

■Had that tobacco been consumed in the legal marketplace, the Australian Government would have received approximately $1.35 billion in tobacco excise tax.

■Consumption of unbranded loose leaf tobacco (chop chop) grew by 43 per cent in 2014 and now accounts for 54 per cent of total illicit consumption (1.4 million kilograms in 2014/964,000 kilograms in 2013).

■ Consumption of illegal (contraband and counterfeit) cigarettes fell by 17 per cent in 2014, largely due to lower volumes from South Korea.

■Cigarette prices in Australia are more than 75 per cent higher than the most expensive non-Australasian market.

■Asian countries including China and South Korea are the primary source of illegal cigarettes.

■ Tobacco tax increases of 12.5 per cent were imposed in December, 2013 and September, 2014.

■ Two further 12.5 per cent tax increases are planned for 2015 and 2016.