'Black-market tobacco operation' stubbed out

Customs said it has confiscated approximately 80kg of tobacco along with equipment to make...
Customs said it has confiscated approximately 80kg of tobacco along with equipment to make cigarettes. Photo: Customs

Customs and police say they have uncovered an illegal cigarette factory in Christchurch. 

The factory was discovered following an investigation into a burglary a week earlier at a warehouse where boxes of goods described as tea were being held awaiting Customs clearance.

A 42-year-old man has been charged with the burglary, using an area not licensed to manufacture cigarettes, interference with goods subject to Customs control and possession of uncustomed goods or prohibited imports, in this case tobacco.

Customs said approximately 80kg of tobacco was stolen in the burglary on June 16 this year and the full weight and quantity of tobacco seized was being calculated.

Along with the illegal tobacco, Customs said it had confiscated machinery used to manufacture individual cigarettes, boxes of cigarettes, cigarette branded labels and almost $2500 in cash, as well as other items.

Nigel Barnes, the chief Customs officer for fraud and prohibition, said uncovering the alleged illegal tobacco importing and manufacturing operation had stopped significant criminal efforts to defraud Crown revenue and New Zealand taxpayers.

"With the help of police and members of the public, Customs has been able to dismantle a major black-market tobacco operation where the offender has imported large quantities of loose tobacco with the aim of selling it at a cut-price and avoid paying legally required taxes," Barnes said.

"The alleged offender was not licensed to be importing or producing tobacco products.

"This offending undermines legitimate trade and revenue collection. Customs continues to focus on identifying and targeting these criminal operations."

The man was due to appear in the Christchurch District Court on Tuesday.