Ten factory staff accused of tobacco theft

1:19 pm on 3 August 2016

Eleven people will appear in the Hutt Valley District Court next week charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of tobacco.

Ten of the people were employees at Imperial Tobacco's factory in Petone.

The company had been independently investigating the thefts for several weeks before contacting police.

The officer in charge of the investigation, detective Tim Leitch, said the evidence Imperial Tobacco provided was "pretty compelling".

Mr Leitch stopped short of calling the alleged thefts organised crime, but said they had been executed by smaller groups of people working collaboratively within a larger collective.

Mr Leitch would not go into detail about how the thefts were executed, but said the alleged offenders had been using social media to sell the tobacco for a significant discount.

He said tobacco theft had become a serious matter for police.

"It would seem that there is quite a major market for stolen tobacco.

"It's an attractive item, it's an expensive item to purchase and people will take advantage if they can get it at a cheaper rate."

He said he had been surprised by the scale of the black market for cigarettes, but would not comment on whether surging prices had contributed to tobacco-related crime.

A spokesperson for Imperial Tobacco said the company would not be commenting on the case while an investigation was ongoing.

The accused will appear in the Hutt Valley District court on 9 August.