PHOTOS: Police find $12 million worth of illegal tobacco growing south of Canberra

Illegal tobacco growing near Cooma. Source: NSW Police

New South Wales police and tax officials have raided a farm between Canberra and the Snowy Mountains after discovering 92,000 tobacco plants growing there.

Police raided the property at Shannons Flat, about 40 kilometres north-west of Cooma, yesterday morning, and found the plantation, more than a decade after growing tobacco was banned in Australia.

They also discovered more than two tonnes of tobacco leaves, $15,000 in cash, a shot gun and ammunition. The estimated excisable value of the tobacco seizure is more than $11.77 million

The investigation into this significant seizure continues. There have been no reports of arrests or charges.

The latest seizure is believed to be the second biggest on record since the former Howard government brought an end to the industry, which once supported around 300 growers in north Queensland and Victoria, in 2006.

In 2015, a man received an 18-month jail sentence for moving and growing over 27,000 kilograms of illegal tobacco worth more than $1 million in Western Sydney.

Two years ago, tobacco crops covering approximately 80 acres were discovered and destroyed in the Merrigum/Kyabram area in Victoria by the Australian Tax Office.

In May 2014, the ATO raided 50-acre property, 40 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD, seizing 350,000 mature tobacco plants worth an estimated $15 million in excise value.

When the industry was outlawed in 2006, legal tobacco growers in areas such as Victoria’s King Valley and Myrtleford swapped one drug for another, switching to grapes and creating a successful wine region in the process.

Police say anyone with information about yesterday’s seizure should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Illegal tobacco growing near Cooma. Source: NSW Police
Tobacco leaves stored on the property. Source: NSW Police

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