A man accused of smuggled 75,000 cigarettes into New Zealand earlier this year has appeared in court today.
The 29-year-old Auckland businessman appeared in the Auckland District Court after NZ Customs officers arrested him yesterday following a tobacco smuggling investigation.
He faces multiple charges under the Customs & Excise Act and the Crimes Act, and more charges are likely.
The Chinese-branded cigarettes were hidden in a cargo-load of new household items and were uncovered by Customs in January this year, officials said.
The total evasion of Customs duty and GST amounted to $83,365, officials allege.
Customs says that initially the name of the person noted down as receiving the shipment of cigarettes was a false identity.
But further investigations linked the shipment to the man who's been arrested, and showed the use of a number of storage facilities and PO Boxes across Auckland that had been opened using false identities, they said.
Customs says the storage facilities and PO Boxes were likely used to facilitate illegal imports prior to the cigarettes being sold wholesale using Chinese social media channels.
Customs investigators executed several search warrants in Auckland yesterday, which resulted in the man’s arrest.
Approximately 3000 cigarettes and around $14,000 in cash were also seized.
Investigations manager Bruce Berry says the relatively high price of tobacco makes New Zealand an attractive market for this activity.
"We are seeing both organised crime groups and opportunists trying to smuggle tobacco into the country to evade duty and make money. This latest arrest, once again, shows that Customs will do everything it can to stop this illegal activity."
In a seperate cigarette smuggling case, another Auckland businessman was sentenced today over what has been Customs’ largest cigarette operation to date.
The man was convicted for smuggling 19.4 million cigarettes in 2018, and evading over $18.7 million in Customs duty and GST. He will serve five years and three months’ imprisonment.