Shocking amount of illicit tobacco seized

More than three tonnes of illicit tobacco worth over six million dollars has been seized in Victoria in a police crackdown blitz on the illegal tobacco market. Picture: Victoria Police.
More than three tonnes of illicit tobacco worth over six million dollars has been seized in Victoria in a police crackdown blitz on the illegal tobacco market. Picture: Victoria Police.

More than three tonnes of illicit tobacco worth more than $6m has been seized in Victoria in a police crackdown blitz on the illegal tobacco market.

About 1000kg of tobacco, 1.5kg of cannabis, $60,000 cash and 10 shotgun rounds were seized from a Melton South man in a joint operation with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as part of Taskforce Lunar.

The 47-year-old man from a Nelson Court address was charged with possessing illicit tobacco to defraud the revenue, possess a trafficable quantity drug of dependence, possess proceeds of crime and firearms offences.

He was bailed to appear at Sunshine Magistrate’s Court on October 2.

A Sydnenham man from a Spellman Ave property is also set to be charged with possessing 900kg of illicit tobacco to defraud the revenue and possess proceeds of crime.

About 600kg of illicit tobacco was found at a Wordsworth Place address in Delahey, as well as $90,000 in cash and six firearms that were improperly stored.

A 35-year-old man will be charged on summons with possessing illicit tobacco to defraud the revenue, possess proceeds of crime and firearms offences and is expected to front court at a later date.

More than three tonnes of illicit tobacco worth over six million dollars has been seized in Victoria in a police crackdown blitz on the illegal tobacco market. Picture: Victoria Police.
More than three tonnes of illicit tobacco has been seized in Victoria in a police crackdown on the illegal tobacco market. Picture: Victoria Police.

Another Delahey man from a Lalwinya Street address was also found with 600kg of illicit tobacco.

Police will allege the properties searched are linked to a significant organised crime leader involved in the illicit tobacco network, with the investigation ongoing.

Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt said Victoria Police are committed to ending the involvement of organised crime groups in the illicit tobacco market.

“We have said previously that Victoria Police is focused on targeting syndicate leaders, directors, facilitators and organisers responsible for this criminal offending,” he said.

“That remains a key priority for us, and we are doing absolutely everything we can to target them, to bring this criminality to an end and to make involvement in illicit tobacco as unattractive a proposition as possible for organised crime groups.”

Police launched an investigation in May after two tobacco stores were destroyed by two separate fires in Melbourne’s north. Picture: Instagram
Police launched an investigation in May after two tobacco stores were destroyed by two separate fires in Melbourne’s north. Picture: Instagram

Superintendent Hatt appealed for the community’s help in the crackdown, emphasising purchasing illicit tobacco is “not a victimless crime”.

“In doing so, you are unwittingly funding organised crime,” he said.

“That money can be used to commit other crimes, such as an arson attack on a business, or to obtain an illicit firearm for a shooting. It is that simple.

“If you are aware of illicit activity linked to a tobacco store, please come forward with that information so police can act.”

The warning comes as a growing string of tobacco shops have gone up in flames across Melbourne, with detectives investigating two arson attacks on tobacco stores in Ararat and Cohuna over the weekend.

Two Glenroy shops were also left destroyed within moments of each other in May.