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Customs Arrests Three For Smuggling Half Million Cigarettes

Customs has arrested three Malaysian nationals for their involvement in smuggling nearly 500,000 cigarettes into New Zealand, evading approximately $675,000 in tobacco taxes.

The two men and one woman are scheduled to appear in the North Shore District Court today. They are charged with defrauding Customs’ revenue, importing prohibited goods, and making erroneous Customs entries.

Customs began its investigation following contact from a New Zealand company who discovered their address had been used on import documents without their prior knowledge.

Customs linked this import to a group of three Malaysian nationals who had arrived into New Zealand as visitors a few weeks earlier.

Further investigations showed the men had falsified import documents by using the names of legitimate companies and directing tobacco shipments to a residential address and storage unit in Auckland.

During examinations, Customs uncovered two consignments adding to 481,640 cigarettes, which represents approximately $675,000 in revenue evasion.

Chief Customs Officer – Fraud and Prohibited, Nigel Barnes, says Customs has ramped up its tobacco seizures and arrests over recent years.

“Illicit tobacco is not a victimless crime. It takes money out of our communities and puts it into the pockets of criminals. As this case shows, we are on to them, and will take every step to ensure they face the consequences,” Mr Barnes said.

“We urge anyone who knows of someone or suspects someone who is dealing in the illegal tobacco trade to contact Customs via Border Protect, our 24 hour confidential hotline.”

Visit www.borderprotect.govt.nz/report or call Customs on 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768), or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Customs received funding in Budget 2022 of $10.4 million to combat illicit tobacco.

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