Perth man, 49-year-old, Manther Samardali was sentenced on 24 November 2017 in the District Court of Western Australia to three years and two months’ imprisonment for smuggling tobacco into Australia and obstructing a Commonwealth official. Mr Samardali lodged an appeal against his sentence with the WA Court of Appeal on 11 December 2017 resulting in a reduction to his sentence to 18 months imprisonment, to be released after 9 months on a recognisance of $5,000 to be of good behaviour for 9 months.
On 29 January 2016, Mr Samardali, authorised an international freight forwarding company to act as customs broker for imports on behalf of his building company.
On 8 October 2016, Mr Samardali asked the freight forwarding company to arrange border clearance for a shipping container arriving on a vessel from Malaysia. Mr Samardali declared the contents as kitchen cabinets. China was stated to be the country of origin. Mr Samardali paid $2,808.63 in customs duty on the stated contents of the container.
The container landed at the port of Fremantle on 10 October 2016. Australian Border Force officers (ABF) unpacked the shipment and inspected eleven cardboard boxes. Inside each box was a white wooden kitchen cabinet and inside the cabinets’ drawers were plastic packets bearing Chinese writing and pictures of mushrooms. Concealed inside each of these plastic packets was a 1kg packet of molasses tobacco. In total, there were 194 1kg packets of tobacco in the container.
In the course of sentencing, Mr Samardali admitted that he had orchestrated the import while on a business trip to China, saying that he intended to give some to business associates, and use some for gatherings with family and friends, and sell the remainder.
As at 10 October 2016, the customs duty payable on 1kg of molasses tobacco was $763.20, and GST payable at 10% of customs duty, was $76.32 per kilogram. Had Mr Samardali obtained possession the tobacco in container, he would have evaded $148,060.80 in customs duty, and $14,856.08 in GST, a total of $162,916.88.
On 21 October 2016, ABF officers executing a search warrant at the Mr Samardali’s house in Stirling WA found nine 1kg packets of molasses tobacco hidden in a under a false bottom in a wardrobe and a packet of tobacco that read in Chinese ‘green tea king’ in a freezer in the garage. In Mr Samardali’s home office ABF officers found written in a notebook: ‘Get Elena to hide the tobacco in the container’.
During the search, Mr Samardali tried to mislead investigators with a false story about the tobacco being put in his shipping container by mistake and referred to a doctored email trail with the exporter. ABF officers’ search of Mr Samardali’s computer found a series of emails arranging for the exporter to send emails claiming that ‘green tea’ was put in the container by mistake, that it was meant to be sent to the ‘USA’ and not ‘AUS’, and asking for the goods to be returned.
Mr Samardali was charged with and convicted of:
- 1 count of importing tobacco with the intention of defrauding the revenue, contrary to section 233 BABAD (1) of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth).
- 1 count of possessing tobacco knowing that it was imported with intent to defraud the revenue, contrary to section 233 BABAD (2) of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth).
- 1 count of attempting to hinder a Commonwealth public official, contrary to sections 11.1 (1) and 149.1 (1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).