SYDNEY, April 18 (Xinhua) -- Illegal tobacco worth more than 13 million U.S. dollars has been seized and destroyed in Australia following raids by the country's tax office (ATO), authorities revealed on Thursday.
With assistance from state police forces, the ATO disrupted two major grow operations with a combined crop area of 33.95 hectares and tobacco leaves weighing more than 16 tonnes.
Australia loses around 430 million U.S. dollars in evaded tax revenue from the illegal tobacco trade per year, making the targeting and dismantling of such enterprises an operational priority for the ATO.
"The illegal tobacco trade is lucrative and is primarily supplied by organised criminal syndicates," ATO assistant commissioner Peter Vujanic said.
"Engaging in the illicit tobacco trade is not victimless. It significantly deprives the community of taxes that are required to fund essential community services such as roads, school and hospitals."
In May 2016, the Australian government announced that it would implement an annual increase in tobacco excise of 12.5 percent, up to and including 2020.
The measures will take the average cost for a packet of cigarettes to around 28 U.S. dollars, among the highest prices in the world.