Tobacco arson 'puppeteer' arrested in cross-state raids

The "puppeteer" allegedly responsible for several illicit tobacco arson attacks is among more than a dozen people arrested in a cross-border crime bust where $10 million worth of illegal tobacco was seized.

West Australian police enlisted the help of their Victorian counterparts to investigate its tobacco network following a series of arsons in April alleged to be linked to an organised crime group in Perth, police said on Friday.

Nine people have been charged with proceeds of crime offences, including a 29-year-old man who is alleged to be the head of the network in WA.

Police believe he moved from Victoria to the west in the past two years to establish the alleged illicit tobacco operation.

Authorities have been tracking the "high-level co-ordinator" of violence and illicit tobacco activities across multiple states for months, Victoria Police Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt said.

"We believe that male is a puppeteer in relation to the fires that have been occurring across multiple states and a high-level player in the illicit tobacco trade," he said on Friday.

Officers swooped on seven men and two women, some allegedly part of a Middle Eastern crime group which they claim is responsible for operating the tobacco trafficking ring.

Police executed 50 search warrants between Sunday and Tuesday, raiding private residences, storage units and retail outlets including tobacco, convenience and gift stores in regional WA and Perth.

About 5.9 million in illegal cigarettes,1.4 tonnes of illegal loose tobacco, $1.7 million in cash, 41,000 vapes and five cars with a combined value of more than $500,000 were seized.

In Victoria, officers connected to task forces Lunar and VIPER raided six properties on Monday and arrested four men, all of whom police allege are "key players".

They seized 15 firearms, about 2.4 million illicit cigarettes worth an estimated $2.4 million, a gel blaster and a stolen car.

A 29-year-old Sunbury man was arrested and charged with illegally possessing firearms, car theft and tax offences relating to illegal cigarettes.

Illicit tobacco seizures
Police have seized $10 million worth of illegal tobacco products. (HANDOUT/WA POLICE)

Raids on other homes discovered 50,000 illicit cigarettes, 30kg of loose tobacco, vapes, a crossbow, ammunition, cash and drugs including cocaine, steroids and magic mushrooms.

A 26-year-old Wollert man is expected to be charged with illicit tobacco and weapons offences, while a 28-year-old Collingwood man was charged and bailed over drug and proceeds of crime offences.

More than 70 people have been arrested in Victoria since Taskforce Lunar was established in October to target organised crime groups involved in the illicit tobacco trade.

Attractive profit margins from illicit tobacco sales had created an environment where organised crime groups were aggressively and violently competing for market share, WA Police Detective Acting Superintendent Jeff Beros said.

"Our investigations are ongoing, but these outcomes including the arrest of the head of the group and his associates send a clear message anyone engaging in this type of criminal activity in Western Australia will be caught and prosecuted," he told reporters.

"These groups are causing great community angst and this will not be tolerated here."

The Australian Border Force confiscated 1.7 billion illicit cigarettes and more than 800 tonnes of loose leaf tobacco last financial year.