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AUSTRALIA

Tonnes of illegal tobacco destroyed

21 Mar 2018. Twenty-eight tonnes of illegally-grown tobacco and 45,000 seedlings have been destroyed by authorities near the provincial Queensland city of Bundaberg, the Brisbane Times reported.

Bundaberg detectives and Australian Federal Police, working with the Australian Taxation Office, found the illegal 21-hectare crop following a Crimestoppers tip-off and the execution of multiple search warrants.

The destroyed crop was estimated to have been worth AUD 30 million (EUR 18.7 million) and its seizure was the result of the “largest cross-agency operation in the Australian Tax Office's history”, the newspaper reported. No arrests were made.

Detective Sergeant Andrew Self said such illegal tobacco growing operations were often hidden in unnumbered backlots of land leased out by criminal groups pretending to farm legal crops. “We were surprised at the quantity of [tobacco] crops, we've had to engage global contractors to plough and slash the crops back into the ground," Self was quoted as saying.

The newspaper said investigators believed some of the profits and harvested tobacco leaf may have gone outside of Australia.