ARARAT - British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) has congratulated the Ararat Rural City Council for successfully prosecuting a tobacco retailer for stocking more than $10,000 worth of illegal tobacco.
Forty-one year-old Hoppers Crossing man Ahmed Kammraldine was convicted on nine charges relating to the illegal stocking and selling of tobacco in Ararat.
In penalties handed down at the Ararat Magistrates' Court on Monday, Mr Kammradline was fined a total of $12,000 for the offences and ordered to pay an extra $6,504 in costs.
Mr Kammradline has also been banned from running a tobacco retailing business within a five kilometre radius of the previous retailer, which is no longer operating.
The charges included displaying tobacco advertising in a public place, selling tobacco that wasn't properly labelled, knowingly possessing smuggled goods, selling tobacco to a person under 18 years of age and not displaying signs that prohibit the sale of tobacco to a person under 18 years of age.
The offences were of such a serious nature that Mr Kammradline faced fines of more than $100,000.
BATA spokesperson Vesna Ciric believes local law enforcement is key to deterring retailers from selling illegal tobacco and preventing young people from having access to it.
BATA investigators conduct more than a thousand covert purchases of illegal tobacco in Victoria each year and provides information to police and councils for enforcement.
"Enforcing the law and following through with the consequences sends a message to retailers that if you sell illegal tobacco you are breaking the law," Ms Ciric said.
"Law-abiding retailers think it's unfair that people can profit so much from selling products that are obviously not legal, and unfortunately these dodgy retailers are unlikely to ask kids for ID."
BATA is encouraging other councils to follow Ararat Rural City Council's tough and determined stance.
"This prosecution is a positive step in the right direction for Victorian residents and it's a great example for other councils signalling the value of enforcement and removing the black market from their communities," Ms Ciric said.
"In Australia, 13.3 per cent of total tobacco consumption is illegal. This is equivalent to $1 billion in excise that isn't paid by criminals to the government.
"Joint law enforcement authorities recently uncovered 35,000 tobacco plants being grown illegally in rural Victoria.
"Organised criminals could have sold that tobacco in Australia without paying tax to make a huge profit from it and unfortunately these people are sometimes linked to some very serious crimes."
The State Government of Victoria announced a quadrupling of fines for retailers caught selling illegal tobacco earlier this year, new penalties are expected to be in place later this year.
"Retailers who sell illegal cigarettes undertake criminal activities themselves and they risk huge losses through fines," Ms Ciric said.