South-west illicit tobacco syndicate dismantled

Eight men are in police custody after detectives investigating terrorism funding uncovered an illicit tobacco importation syndicate operating in Sydney's south-west.

In November 2017, detectives from the NSW Police Force's Terrorism Investigation Squad and investigators from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) established Strike Force DeHaar to investigate terrorism funding in NSW.

The investigation has also been assisted by Australian Border Force (ABF) Illicit Tobacco Taskforce; Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), and Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

As part of their inquiries, strike force officers uncovered an organised criminal syndicate involved in the importation of illicit tobacco, drug supply, and large-scale money laundering.

Following extensive inquiries, Strike Force DeHaar investigators arrested two men - aged 38 and 39 - at Sydney Olympic Park about 8.15am today (Tuesday, May 21).

During a search of the 39-year-old man, police located $12,000 cash.

Shortly after the arrests, a multi-agency operation - which also included the Australian Federal Police - was conducted with the execution of 19 criminal organisation search warrants at homes, businesses, and storage units across Sydney's south-west.

So far during the searches, investigators have seized large quantities of illicit tobacco and cigarettes, various luxury goods, including watches and handbags, and cash.

A further six men - aged between 27 and 42 - were arrested during the operation.

All eight men have been taken to local police stations, where they will be charged with various offences relating to tobacco smuggling, money laundering, and their roles in a criminal group.

Police will allege in court that the group took part in the supply and distribution of more than seven tonnes of tobacco products, worth more than $1.8 million.

The group also allegedly facilitated the illicit importation of 475,000 packets of cigarettes, which would accrue about $9 million in excise if imported legally.

Further, police will allege that the group laundered more than $1.2 million in proceeds of crime.

While investigations are ongoing, police are reassuring the community there is no current or impending threat to NSW arising from Strike Force DeHaar.

Anyone with information in relation to suspected terrorism should always come forward, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. The National Security Hotline is 1800 123 400.

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