A man who arranged for an unsuspecting driver to ship tonnes of illegal tobacco from his Queensland farm to Melbourne has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Abdallah Abdallah, 51, was sentenced in Melbourne's County Court on Tuesday to two-and-a-half years in prison and fined $2000 for possessing and moving illegal tobacco which was subject to about $1.8 million in taxes. He will be released on a four-year good behaviour bond.
Abdallah was first discovered by NSW police in 2017 after they identified a suspicious van driving on the Newell Highway near Narrandera, in the state's south.
Investigators later learnt he had arranged for a man to drive 10 one-tonne bales of dried tobacco leaf from his farm in Queensland to Melbourne.
They referred the matter to the Australian Taxation Office, which uncovered more than five acres of illegal tobacco at two separate properties at Givelda, near Bundaberg.
The tobacco plants and equipment used for processing the crop were seized by the ATO.
Since mid-2016, the ATO has seized 240 tonnes of illegal tobacco with worth more than $204 million in lost taxes.
The authority estimates about $600 million went to criminals instead of the community by way of dodged taxes between 2015 and 2016.
"The illegal tobacco trade is lucrative and is primarily supplied by organised criminal syndicates," ATO assistant commissioner Ian Read said in a statement following Abdallah's sentencing.
"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."