$5.2 million worth of illicit tobacco found in Moorabool

Tobacco located as part of Operation Bonnybridge (Supplied)

More than 2700 kilograms of illicit tobacco was seized from a property in Pentland Hills last week.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO), with the support of the Australian Border Force led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) and Victoria Police’s VIPER Taskforce, seized and destroyed the tobacco after officers visited the Penland Hills property as part of Operation Bonnybridge.

The officers located four acres of illicit tobacco crops with an estimated excise value of $5.2 million. They also found and seized numerous electronic devices and CCTV footage and collected intelligence to assist with their inquiries.

ATO assistant commissioner Jade Hawkins reiterated the importance of community tip-offs in the fight against illicit tobacco.

“This successful outcome is the result of a tip-off to the ATO,” she said.

“Not only were we able to bring this criminal operation to a halt but we were also able to disrupt distribution to the retail sector and collect intelligence to help target future operations.”

Ms Hawkins has also encouraged the community to be aware of the signs that illicit tobacco is growing nearby.

“Some of the signs to look out for include intense labour production between November and May, suspicious enquiries about land for lease, unexplained use of water resources and large crops of leafy plants that may resemble kale, cabbage or corn,” she said.

Australian Border Force (ABF) Commander Clint Sims said investigators were supporting the ongoing work of the ITTF in the disruption of criminal groups involved in the illicit tobacco trade across Melbourne and regional Victoria.

“Our highly-trained and motivated investigative teams possess significant operational capabilities – targeting, detecting and seizing all forms of illicit tobacco through innovative measures and ensuring criminals are on the losing side of our efforts,” he said.

“The ABF is 100 per cent focused on disrupting any attempt by criminals to make money off the harm illicit tobacco causes, especially to the health of young people, in our community.’

If you suspect that illicit tobacco is being grown or manufactured in your community contact, www.ato.gov.au/tipoff or phone 1800 060 062.