More than 130 tonnes of illicit tobacco was seized and destroyed by the Australian Taxation Office this year, with the single largest seizure in Lake Bolac in Victoria's western district seeing approximately $36.6 million worth of tobacco destroyed.
ATO officers, with the help of Victoria Police and Australian Border Force, executed five search warrants in regional Victoria in the 2019-20 financial year, uncovering more than 76 acres of tobacco.
The Lake Bolac bust in March this year, saw officers locate 31.4 acres of tobacco, weighing approximately 28 tonnes.
A search at Nhill in early March this year revealed nearly 6 tonnes of illicit tobacco, worth approximately $7.7 million.
ATO assistant commissioner Ian Read said the body was committed to disrupting organised crime syndicates who take advantage of unsuspecting rural communities.
"The trade in illicit tobacco products in Australia has widespread negative consequences across the community," Mr Read said.
"Tobacco growing operations are not run by small producers or farmers. They are run by organised crime syndicates who deliberately engage in illegal activities to fund their extravagant lifestyles and other criminal activity.
"We're finding crops in regional and remote areas of the country, being grown on land being leased from unsuspecting owners under the guise of growing vegetables.
"A number of these operations were as a result of tip-offs from concerned members of the community, and I urge people to keep reporting any activity they suspect may involve the production of illicit tobacco. Public tip-offs build on the intelligence we gather from a range of sources and help us to identify, seize and destroy these illicit crops before they are harvested."
If you suspect that illegal tobacco is being grown or manufactured in your community you can confidentially report it online at ato.gov.au/illicittobacco or by calling 1800 060 062.
Signs to look out for include intense labour production between November and May, suspicious enquiries about land for lease, unexplained use of water resources and large crops of leafy plants that may resemble kale, cabbage or corn.