Millions of illegal cigarettes, vapes seized in raids

Millions of cigarettes, tens of thousands of illegal vapes and more than $800,000 cash have been seized during a multi-agency operation in southeast Queensland.

The raids were carried out on storage units and homes this week as part of an investigation into money laundering and illegal tobacco and nicotine products.

Officers from the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), Queensland police, the Australian Taxation Office, Queensland Health, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Australian Border Force took part in the searches of 15 properties in Logan, Redlands and Ipswich.

The investigation began when the CCC suspected a 37-year-old Logan man of money laundering and later found evidence he was allegedly involved in the distribution and sale of illegal tobacco and vape products to stores throughout Queensland.

In the raids carried out on Tuesday, officers seized eight million cigarettes, almost four tonnes of loose leaf tobacco with an excise value of more than $14 million, and $835,000 in cash.

They also found 60,000 vapes with a street value of about $1.8 million, and six vehicles.

The 37-year-old man faces 58 charges including numerous counts of fraud, making false declarations and assaulting police.

He remains in custody and is expected to reappear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

CCC chairman Bruce Barbour said it was concerning to see criminal activity manifesting in the tobacco and vape industry.

“Many in the community may not realise when purchasing cheap or under the counter tobacco products or vapes that they could be funding organised crime, who then go on to use these ill-gotten financial gains to fund other criminal enterprises," he said in a statement.

"They may have no idea their money may be funding very serious criminal activities in Australia and beyond.”

TGA laboratories will test the vapes for dangerous ingredients.

“Unregulated nicotine vapes are a serious concern in the Australian community due to their availability and increased use, particularly among young people, with health risks including nicotine addiction, nicotine poisoning, exposure to toxins, and serious injuries and burns," TGA head Tony Lawler said.

"Additionally, it is still unclear what the long-term health impacts of nicotine vapes may be."

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