Illicit tobacco imports ripping off Aussie taxpayers of at least $640 million.

TAXPAYERS have been ripped off by at least $640 million because of illicit tobacco shipped by criminal gangs and dodgy importers in the last five years alone.

That figure is the amount of tax that should have been paid on illegally imported tobacco — almost entirely shipped as sea cargo — seized and destroyed by border authorities.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has vowed to crack down on the trade and put a stop to organised criminal syndicates eyeing Australia’s lucrative market.

“Illicit tobacco smugglers are ripping off taxpayers and putting cheap cigarettes into the hands of young kids and we are doing all we can to stamp them out,” Mr. Dutton said.