On 4 December 2015, the Court of Criminal Appeal upheld a Crown appeal against a District Court sentence imposed on 35-year-old Adam Saleh of Punchbowl, New South Wales. The successful appeal resulted in the Court re-sentencing Saleh to a term imprisonment of three years, to be released on recognisance after serving two years in prison.
Saleh had entered a late plea of guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting the importation of tobacco products with the intention of defrauding the revenue.
Between about 15 March 2013 and 27 March 2013, Saleh organised the final stage of the importation into Australia of approximately 2.25 tonnes of unmanufactured loose tobacco which was concealed inside a shipping container of bamboo blinds. The container of blinds was shipped to Australia from Indonesia, the consignee being Yagoona Markets, a trading name registered to Joe Saba. In the course of organising the movement of the container through Customs into Australia, and its subsequent delivery, unpacking and storage, Saleh engaged a freight forwarder to whom he supplied all necessary information and payment for the shipment, arranged and paid for storage of the container at storage premises, and organised four men to transfer the tobacco from the container into a truck in which it was to be removed from the storage yard.
As a result of information supplied by Saleh to the freight forwarder, on 20 March 2013 customs brokers lodged a Customs declaration in relation to the shipping container, declaring the cargo as bamboo screens on which the duty payable was $AUD4,696.21.
On 25 March 2013 the shipping container was opened by Customs officials and found to contain 600 bamboo blinds concealing approximately 2,250 kg of tobacco. The bamboo blinds and tobacco were repacked into the shipping container for a managed delivery. The approximate import duty payable on the tobacco was $996,997.50.
On 25 March 2013 Saleh attended storage premises to arrange the storage of the container. On 27 March 2013 the shipping container was delivered to the storage premises. A short time later Australian Customs and Border Protection investigators attended the storage premises and arrested four men unpacking the container. Saleh was nearby but drove away without entering the premises.
Search warrants were executed to obtain evidential material. On 9 April 2013 Saleh was arrested for importing tobacco products with intent to defraud revenue. When interviewed, he said that he was approached by a man named Sam or Simon and asked to organise the freight forwarding and customs clearance for the container because Sam or Simon would be interstate at the time the container was due to arrive. He was asked by Sam or Simon to arrange for people to unpack the container. He was in need of money and was to receive $3,000 to arrange those services and was given $700 to pay the workers. He was provided a mobile phone by Sam.
Original sentence / District Court of NSW / District Court Judge Sweeney
On 29 May 2015 Adam Saleh was convicted of an offence against section 233BABAD(1) of the Customs Act 1901 that between 15 March 2013 and 27 March 2013 he aided and abetted the importation of tobacco products with the intention of defrauding the revenue. That offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 10 years and/or a fine of up to 5 times the duty payable on the tobacco.
Saleh was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment, fully suspended on entry of a recognisance to be of good behaviour for 20 months with self-surety of $1,000.
Crown Appeal against sentence / Court of Criminal Appeal Supreme Court NSW
The Crown appeal was upheld, and the sentence imposed by District Court Judge Sweeney quashed.
Saleh was re-sentenced to imprisonment for three years commencing on 29 May 2015, to be released after serving two years on entering into a recognisance to be of good behaviour for the balance of the sentence, self-surety in the sum of $1,000 without such security being required to be deposited.