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Police arrest man in connection with plot to smuggle 16 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and 20 million cigarettes into Australia

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plot to smuggle 16 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and 20 million cigarettes

An anti-tobacco smuggling police unit in Australia has detained a man in connection with a plot to illegally import tobacco products that cost the country some A$24 million ($16.6 million) in lost taxes.

Officers from Australia’s Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF), which was set up back in May 2018 to help the country’s government raise  A$3.6 billion over a four-year period by cracking down on tobacco smuggling, arrested the suspect on Saturday morning in connection with the massive haul.

The man was detained at Melbourne Airport before he was later charged with five offences against the Customs Act 1901.

He appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday morning, where he was bailed to reappear in April next year.

Prosecutors claim the man was involved in a plot to smuggle almost 16 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and over 20 million cigarettes into Australia over the course of the past two years, avoiding an estimated A$24 million in excise duty.

Commenting on the seizure, Acting Commander of Australian Border Force (ABF) ’s Special Investigations unit Leo Lahey said: “This arrest is the result of a complex and protracted investigation by the ITTF and continues the focus of the ITTF on targeting the most serious and significant organised crime syndicates trafficking in illicit tobacco.”

In Australia, the maximum penalty for tobacco smuggling is 10 years behind bars and/or a fine of up to five times the value of duty evaded.

Earlier this month, ABF revealed that its officers had detected and seized more than 39 million illicit cigarettes in Melbourne over the course of just one week.

The illicit cigarettes, which would have deprived the Australian government of some A$40 million in evaded duty had they been sold on the black market, were discovered in sea cargo shipments after customs officers noted inconsistencies with import declarations.

Border force officers said one shipment, which was declared as being synthetic grass but in fact contained 20 million cigarettes, was not hidden at all, while a second that was declared as glass bottles was stashed behind a cover load and contained 19 million cigarettes.

Speaking after the discovery of these shipments, Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood said that since its establishment, the ITTF had been involved in the seizure of more than 67 tonnes of smuggled tobacco and approximately 230 million trafficked cigarettes, protecting more than A$264 million in duty.

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Scammers the world over are exploiting public fears over the coronavirus outbreak

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exploiting public fears over the deadly coronavirus outbreak

Scammers across the globe are looking to profit from public fears over the coronavirus outbreak, with reports across the world highlighting how fraudsters seek to profit from the panic created by major disease outbreaks.

On Wednesday, Kyodo News reported that authorities in China have seized more than 31 million counterfeit or substandard face masks as members of the public clamour for such products amid a countrywide shortage.

China’s Ministry of Public Safety said police in the country have dealt with 688 cases involving the manufacture and sale of fake and substandard protective materials, arresting over 1,560 people while doing so.

China’s state-backed Xinhua news agency quotes the ministry as saying that as of Monday, law enforcement officers across the country had dealt with some 22,000 criminal cases related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Addressing a press conference in Beijing today, Vice Minister Du Hangwei revealed that a total of 4,260 suspects have been detained in relation to these alleged offences.

On Sunday, the UK’s People newspaper revealed that phishing scammers are sending elderly and vulnerable British citizens emails that purport to be from the country’s National Health Service in which they demand a payment of £169.99 ($216) for access to “rapid and effective treatment” for the disease.

Elsewhere, Business Insider reports that Facebook has announced that it will take down bogus adverts that guarantee a cure, create a sense of urgency or otherwise attempt to profit from the virus.

In a statement, the company said: “In the weeks after the World Health Organisation’s declared a public health emergency, Facebook is working to support their work in multiple ways, including taking steps to stop ads for products that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention.

“For example, ads with claims like face masks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed.”

In January, NutraIngredients-USA revealed that the US Natural Products Association (NPA) had asked federal authorities to monitor dietary supplement companies that claim their products can be used to treat the coronavirus.

NPA President and CEO Daniel Fabricant commented: “We have been in touch with some of the ecommerce organisations.

“We are urging them to take a look at how marketers that sell on their sites are tagging products.”

Earlier in February, the US Federal Tarde Commission warned that fraudsters are seeking to take advantage of fears surrounding the disease by setting up websites to sell bogus products.

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Petition calling for Pornhub to be closed down for hosting videos of sex trafficking victims and children passes 300,000 signatures

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petition calling for Pornhub to be closed down

A petition on Change.org calling for adult website Pornhub to be closed down after it hosted videos featuring sex trafficking victims and child sexual exploitation has attracted more than 300,000 signatures.

Launched by US women’s rights group Exodus Cry, which works to end commercial sexual exploitation, the petition labels Pornhub a “super-predator”, and calls for the website’s executives to be held to account.

The petition cites the case of the mother of a missing 15-year-old girl who discovered that videos featuring the rape and sexual assault of her daughter had been uploaded to Pornhub.

The girl’s trafficker, Christopher Johnson, who can be seen in the films raping the teenager, was arrested in Florida when police matched his appearance in some of the videos and linked it with 7-11 CCTV footage.

In its petition description, Exodus Cry also highlights the case of the owners of adult websites GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys, who were charged with sex trafficking offences after they allegedly tricked young woman into appearing in pornographic films that were uploaded to Pornhub.

Last month, a judge in San Diego awarded nearly $13 million to 22 women who said they were tricked into performing in adult films by GirlsDoPorn owners Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe.

Noting that one of the most-searched terms on Pornhub is “teen” pornography, Exodus Cry writes in its petition description: “Pornhub is complicit in the trafficking of these women and minors and probably thousands more like them.

“Pornhub is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue with 42 billion visits and six million videos uploaded per year.

“Yet it has no system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts and profits from.”

In a statement issued to the UK’s Daily Star, a Pornhub spokesperson said: “In the cases of Christopher Johnson and GirlsDoPorn, the unauthorised, illegal videos were removed from our platform as soon as we were made aware of them, and Pornhub has been assisting law enforcement and legal counsel with both of these investigations.”

Earlier this month, the BBC reported on the story of a woman who was forced to contact Pornhub after it hosted a video of her being raped when she was aged just 14.

Noting that videos of the attack had been posted on the website with titles such as “teen crying and getting slapped around”, Rose Kalemba explained how she emailed the company several times over a period of six months in 2009 to ask for the videos to be taken down, making clear that they depicted het being assaulted as a minor.

The videos were only removed when Kalemba contacted Pornhub posing as a lawyer.

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UK ticket touts who fleeced Harry Potter and Ed Sheeran fans caged for six and a half years

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UK ticket touts who fleeced Harry Potter and Ed Sheeran fans

Two British ticket touts who made millions of pounds by ripping off fans of Harry Potter, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift were yesterday jailed for a total of six and a half years following a trial at Leeds Crown Court.

Peter Hunter, 51, was handed a four-year jail term while David Thomas Smith, 66, was sentenced to 30 months behind bars after the pair were found guilty of fraudulently and dishonestly buying and reselling tickets for high-profile music and entertainment events.

Hunter and Smith are said to have raked in at least £11 million ($14.1 million) while running their BZZ Limited company, through which they purchased and sold on hundreds of tickets at hugely inflated prices to fans desperate to see their favourite artists and shows.

The pair, who were found guilty of committing their offences between 2010 and 2017, brought in a net profit of £3.5 million over the final 32 months of their fraud alone.

As well as selling customers overpriced and sometimes invalid tickets, the court found the men had also prevented thousands of people from getting hold of tickets at face value by buying up huge quantities to sell on at a massive profit.

Both men were found guilty of three counts of fraudulent trading and one of possession or control of an article for use in fraud.

A National Trading Standards investigation into Hunter and Smith revealed the pair used a number of dishonest and fraudulent tactics in order to purchase large quantities of tickets from primary ticket providers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim and AXS.

Speaking after sentencing, Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the UK’s National Trading Standards organisation, commented: “This is an important milestone in the fight to tackle online ticket touts who fraudulently buy and resell tickets to thousands of victims to line their own pockets.

“Today’s sentences send a strong message to similar online ticket touts: these are criminal offences that can lead to prison sentences.

“I hope this leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

In June of last year, Britain’s national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud launched an awareness-raising campaign in which it appealed to music and sports fans to be on their guard against unauthorised ticket sellers ahead of the busy summer period.

The agency said it had received 4,755 reports of ticket fraud in the 13 months to the end of April last year, noting that victims across the UK had lost more than £1.6 million to ticket scammers over that time.

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