For the past few years, Australian debates over tobacco policy could reasonably be summarised as industry claiming that the tax hikes and plain packaging laws together have made an environment ripe for black market activity, and the public health crowd arguing that industry figures on smuggled tobacco are made up.
The attempted kidnapping, bashing and stabbing of an international tobacco company manager outside his family home in Sydney suggests crime syndicates are hitting back at efforts to combat the booming illicit tobacco trade.
A criminal syndicate is suspected of ordering the botched kidnapping in June of a former decorated NSW policeman turned manager of British American Tobacco.
The BAT manager was stabbed and bashed by at least three men, after he refused their order that he get into a car. The kidnappers arrived at the man’s Sydney home at around 10pm on Saturday June 4.
A source said the manager was forced to “fight for his life” to ward off the kidnappers, who have not been identified. He was rushed to hospital after the attack.
Maybe the conspiracy is so deep that the tobacco industry staged an attack on BAT’s manager. Or maybe, just maybe, the closer that countries push towards tobacco prohibition, the closer we get to Al Capone coming back.
Oh – the story also has a picture of 71 tonnes of black market tobacco that Customs there seized in June of last year.
A key concern to emerge from the attempted kidnapping is how the underworld may have learned of the BAT manager’s support of transnational police investigations into tobacco trafficking.
Heck of a job, guys.