Illegal tobacco imports on the rise; criminals using high heels, fluffy toys to stash cigarettes

Australian Border Force (ABF) officials have seized a record volume of illegal cigarettes and tobacco, including many products hidden inside fluffy toys, machinery, picture frames and platform shoes.

For the month of January, 5 million illegal cigarettes and 1 tonne of loose leaf tobacco were detected at the International Mail Centre (IMC) in western Sydney.

It was a new monthly record for the IMC, which takes in three quarters of Australia's mail from overseas.

The six months from June to December 2016 was also a busy time, with ABF officials intercepting 145 tonnes of illegal tobacco products from the IMC — the equivalent volume of almost 10 Sydney buses.