28 Nov 2018

1.8 million smuggled cigarettes seized by Customs

1:50 pm on 28 November 2018

Customs has seized about 1.8 million cigarettes and more than $2 million cash in an investigation into an Auckland businessman.

The cigarettes were Chinese branded.

The cigarettes were Chinese branded. Photo: Customs / Supplied

New Zealand Police have also restrained multiple properties, luxury cars and bank accounts.

The businessman was arrested by Customs at Auckland Airport last Wednesday as he attempted to leave the country.

He has been charged with defrauding Customs revenue.

"The tax evaded by smuggling the 1.8 million cigarettes is almost $1.8m," Customs said in a statement.

The investigation began after Customs identified a company suspected of smuggling cigarettes inside sea containers. Customs, during a recent container inspection, located 340,000 cigarettes hidden inside metal cabinets.

A further 1.5 million cigarettes were found during searches at Auckland addresses.

Customs said the investigation found what is believed to be the largest tax evasion case involving smuggled cigarettes.

Some of the cash seized in the operation.

Some of the cash seized in the operation. Photo: Customs / Supplied

"Customs has seen an increase in the commercial quantities of smuggled or misdeclared Chinese-branded cigarettes in recent years," Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry said.

"This investigation has uncovered the largest scale tobacco fraud to date, with the tax evasion already estimated to be at least $1.8m.

"While it's okay to import cigarettes, smuggling or misdeclaring them to evade taxes is illegal.

"Customs will not hesitate to identify and take action against those who seek to financially benefit from such illegal activity, including restraining the assets of the worst offenders," he said.

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