Customs expect to make more arrests after a joint Customs and Police investigation uncovered the country’s biggest ever cigarette smuggling operation.
Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry has told a press conference this afternoon that further arrests and charges are likely in relation to evasion of customs duty, conspiracy to evade customs duty and sale of goods not checked by Customs.
Customs announced this morning that an Auckland businessman was arrested at Auckland Airport last week and was charged with defrauding Customs revenue.
Customs investigators seized 1.8 million smuggled cigarettes and five rubbish bags stuffed with $2 million in cash.
Police have also restrained multiple properties, luxury cars and bank accounts.
The tax evaded by smuggling the 1.8m cigarettes is almost $1.8m.
The investigation – named Operation Whitethorn – was a six-month operation that began after Customs identified a company suspected of smuggling cigarettes inside sea containers. A recent container inspection located 340,000 cigarettes hidden inside 12 metal cabinets.
Last week, Customs investigators carried out search warrants at multiple Auckland addresses, locating around 1.5m cigarettes and five rubbish bags filled with cash.
The Police asset recovery unit restrained two properties worth several million dollars, two luxury cars and several bank accounts.
It is the first time Customs has partnered with the unit to target those involved in revenue fraud.