Two charged over alleged duty free goods scam

Border Operations 21/11/2022
Joint ABF and Victoria Police operation leads to $900,000 worth of items seized.

Two people have been charged and $900,000 worth of beauty products and electronic items seized following a joint investigation by the Australian Border Force (ABF) and Victoria Police into an alleged duty free goods scam.

A 29-year-old woman and 22-year-old man, both living in Port Melbourne, were arrested and charged on 16 November after warrants were executed by Victoria Police and the ABF Jardena Strike Team.

In July 2022 ABF officers and Trident Taskforce investigators began monitoring two individuals who were believed to be involved in the diversion of beauty products and other goods into home consumption by exploiting a loophole in the sealed bag scheme for duty free goods.

The alleged method of duty evasion involved the purchase of goods in duty free stores with multiple cards, cash and online payment facilities.

It will be alleged the scam saw $1.7 million spent on duty free goods between the start of May and 15 November, equating to $280,000 in duty and GST evaded.

The 29-year-old woman would provide proof of a departure flight and sign an in-store declaration of export that enabled her to purchase goods duty free.

She would use duty free stores not located at the airport and then allegedly drop the goods off at home before going to the airport to board a flight.

She allegedly would routinely depart Melbourne for Queenstown, New Zealand, without the duty free items that she claimed were in her checked luggage.

The woman would then usually return to Melbourne the same day. She is then suspected of selling the duty free goods online.

On Wednesday warrants were carried out at a residential address and two storage units in Port Melbourne.

An estimated $500,000 of cosmetic goods, electronic items and associated documents were seized at the residential address.

An estimated $400,000 of cosmetic goods were seized from one of the two storage units searched.

The woman and man have both been charged with four counts of causing loss to a Commonwealth entity and were bailed to appear for a filing hearing at Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 23 November.

ABF Acting Superintendent Andrew Holman said the investigation shows the success of authorities continuing to work together to stop illicit activity.

“Working alongside our partner agencies, we will continue to target those engaging in this sort of activity and hold them to account," A/g Superintendent Holman said.

“If you commit an offence, there is nowhere to hide, we will track you down.

“This criminal activity was uncovered thanks to the hard work of ABF and Victoria Police officers and we will continue to work together to target offending of this nature."

Victoria Police Detective Superintendent Jacqueline Curran, of the Organised Crime Division, said the arrests should serve as a serious warning to criminals who attempt to target our community.

“Victoria Police is determined to make our state a hostile place for organised crime," Superintendent Curran said.

“Through the persistent work of the Trident Taskforce in conjunction with the ABF, we have been able to arrest two people and seize almost a million dollars' worth of products.

“These results highlight the commitment of all agencies in the relentless pursuit of offenders seeking to profit at the expense of our community."

Anyone with information about the importation of illicit goods should contact Border Watch. By reporting suspicious activities, you help protect Australia's border and the community. Information can be provided anonymously.

The community can contact ABF's Border Watch Program and make a report online at www.abf.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/borderwatch.

Media contact: Australian Border Force (02) 6264 2211​