Two men allegedly tried to bribe a Commonwealth official in order to import more than 60 tonnes of illegal tobacco and almost 25 million counterfeit Dunhill cigarettes.
Police claim the illegal imports, seized yesterday in early morning raids in Sydney’s southwest, had the potential to defraud the tax office of more than $35 million in revenue.
A joint law enforcement operation made up of NSW and Federal Police, Customs and Border Protection Service and the NSW Crime Commission was set up after the Commonwealth official reported the alleged bribe.
Two men, aged 30 and 27, who police allege led the syndicate, were arrested at a house in Greenacre.
Detective Superintendent Peter McErlain, head of Operation Polaris, set up to target serious and organised crime activity at NSW sea cargo terminals, said the investigation highlighted the success of a multi-agency approach to disrupt criminality on the waterfront.
“As a result of the professionalism and good work of the Commonwealth official in reporting the matter to authorities, police were able to launch an investigation and bring these people to justice,” Supt McErlain said.
At dawn yesterday, dozens of officers executed simultaneous warrants at houses in Greenacre, Belmore, Roselands and Lakemba, seizing almost $450,000 in cash and tonnes of illegal tobacco and counterfeit cigarettes.
It is understood much of the illegal material was located in a white Toyota HiAce van parked a short distance from one of the homes.
The two men were last night charged with bribery of a Commonwealth official, dealing in proceeds of crime, money or property worth more than $1 million and obtaining financial advantage by deception. The pair is expected to face court today.
Supt McErlain said the fight against criminality on the waterfront was not over.
“We will continue to target crime on the waterfront, including drug importation, money laundering, container theft and corruption,” he said.