Customs Offences

I can not speak highly enough of the professionalism of Ruth Parker and associates.

There is not a more determined lawyer who with her team left no stone unturned in representing me.

Ian Bouch, August 2023

Customs law is complex and ever-changing with those involved in the international import and export of goods subject to a wide range of regulations. This causes a high level of risk and uncertainty for those trading internationally.

The Customs Act 1901 is Commonwealth legislation outlining the laws around the movement of goods, international trade, and free trade agreements (FTAs), as well as the taxes and duties that apply when goods are imported or export goods. Criminal charges may be brought against a company or individual that does not import and export goods in accordance with the Customs Act 1901.

If you, or your business is involved in a customs law matter, early advice and legal representation is necessary. Our team of customs lawyers can help. For more information or advice on customs law, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team at Galbally Parker.

The Offences Galbally Parker’s Customs Lawyers Can Assist With

Penalties for customs offences can include significant fines and even jail time. The following are some examples of prohibited goods that may result in a customs offence:

  • Certain plants and animals and some of the materials related to those plants and animals
  • Weapons, including firearms, without appropriate permission
  • Ammunition
  • Pornography
  • Counterfeit goods
  • Chemicals (without a licence)

If the offence relates to the importation or exportation of illegal drugs, charges will be pursuant to the Criminal Code.

If you or your business is importing and exporting good internationally, it is important to ensure you maintain compliance with the customs laws both within Australia and the other countries involved, in order to avoid charges.

Common customs offences include:

  • Smuggling and unlawful importation and exportation of goods through any means of transportation, including air, see and freight forwarders
  • Avoiding payment of necessary taxes and duties
  • Gaining any drawback, refund, rebate, or remission that is not payable
  • Intentionally or recklessly making or causing a false or misleading statement to a customs officer, or omitting requested information
  • Intentionally giving information to another person, knowing that the information is misleading in a material because of an omission of information and that someone else will include the information in a statement to an officer
  • Selling or attempting to sell prohibited imports or smuggled goods

Our Melbourne-based team of criminal lawyers are experts in importation and exportation custom offences.  We are also experienced in working with drug trafficking offences. Contact us today to find out how our customs lawyers can work with you to defend any allegations of customs offences, and either help you to avoid or minimise penalties.

Tobacco and Revenue Offences

The importation and subsequent sale of tobacco is a significant source of revenue for the Australian Government. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions forcefully prosecutes any person who illegally imports tobacco, thus avoiding paying tax. Prison sentences do apply, as do restraining order and confiscation proceedings in relation to money or property suspected as having been paid for using the proceeds of crime (or which reflect “unexplained wealth”). To properly represent those charged with these offences, a familiarity with the Customs Act, Commonwealth Criminal Code and the relevant confiscation legislation is essential.

Changes to Tobacco Importation Offences in Australia

In July 2019 the Australian Government made significant changes the tobacco importation process. These changes saw the tightening of tobacco product regulation, whereby most tobacco products were reclassified as ‘prohibited imports’. These procedural changes included tighter regulations on the importation of cigarettes, molasses tobacco, heat-not-burn products and loose-leaf tobacco. Under these changes individuals or organisation importing tobacco, or tobacco products, must apply for and be granted a permit issued by the Australian Border Force (pursuant to Home Affairs notice No. 2019/13). Furthermore, once the tobacco arrives in Australia, importers are required to pay customs duty and taxes to the Department of Home Affairs, including their Australian Border Force division (Home Affairs). These changes come in light of a Federal Inquiry into the illicit tobacco trade.

Criminal Offences

The illicit trade and sale of fraudulent tobacco products is considered a serious crime. Although most commonly associated with manufacturing and distribution, importation of tobacco products is also considered illicit where the aforementioned processes have not been followed. There are extensive penalties for breaching these processes, including: a civil penalty by way of $44,000 infringement notice for possessing between two and five kilograms of illicitly imported tobacco; a criminal penalty of up to five years imprisonment and/or a $222,000 fine for more possessing more than five kilograms of illicit tobacco or; for selling illicitly obtained tobacco and; up to 10 years imprisonment and a $333,000 fine for the production of illicit tobacco.

Furthermore, Section 233 BABAD of the Customs Act outlines offences involving the importation of tobacco products. Such offences relate to importing tobacco products with the intent of fraudulent or unregulated sales. Subsection (1) prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for ‘importing tobacco goods’ with ‘the intention of defrauding the revenue’. This section would apply in situations where a person has not followed the ABF’s permit and declaration procedure, or if tobacco was distributed through the mail. Subsection (2) sets the same maximum penalty for possessing or conveying tobacco products in the knowledge that they were imported with the intention to defraud the revenues. This subsection would apply where a person has received or transported tobacco products with knowledge that duties and taxes had not been paid. In addition to prison, those in breach of subsection (1) or (2) may face a maximum fine of $210,000.

‘Reckless’ Importation

Subsection (2A) prescribes a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for importing tobacco products in circumstances where the person is reckless as to whether there would be a defrauding of the revenue. An individual is considered as ‘reckless’ if they were aware it was likely that there would be a defrauding but went ahead with their actions regardless. Subsection (2B) sets the same 5-year maximum penalty for possessing or conveying tobacco products where the person is reckless as to whether they were imported with the intention to defraud the revenue. Again, the same standard for ‘reckless’ applies.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence relating to illicit tobacco importation, Galbally Parker can assist you.

Why Choose Galbally Parker Customs & Tobacco Lawyers?

The team at Galbally Parker has a track record of successes in the recent and the more distant past. Our highly qualified team of criminal defence lawyers are proficient in customs and tobacco law.  Contact us today to find out how our customs lawyers can defend allegations of customs breaches.

Speak to our Experienced Customs Lawyers

Galbally Parker Criminal Defence Lawyers