Illicit tobacco linked to major crime boss seized


William Ton, AAP

More than $6 million worth of illicit tobacco, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and firearms have been seized in police raids on properties across Victoria linked to an organised crime boss involved in the illicit tobacco trade.

The joint operation with the Australian Tax Office and detectives from Victoria Police’s Lunar and VIPER taskforces discovered 3.3 tonnes of illicit tobacco, more than $170,000 cash and 11 firearms as part of their investigation into the cultivation and distribution of illicit tobacco in Victoria.

Police executed 10 search warrants on properties across the state alleging they are linked to a significant leader of an organised crime syndicate involved in the illicit tobacco network.

Detectives searched five residential properties in Sydenham, Delahey and Melton South in Melbourne’s northwest.

They seized 200kg of illicit tobacco, five firearms and shotgun rounds that were improperly stored, documentation relating to the manufacture of illicit tobacco and keys believed to be for illicit tobacco farms at a property in Sydenham.

A 30-year-old man at the address is expected to be charged.

About 900kg of illicit tobacco and a small quantity of cash were located at another Sydenham property with police expecting to charge a 39-year-old man with possessing illicit tobacco to defraud the revenue and possess proceeds of crime.

A 47-year-old man living at a Melton South property was charged with illicit tobacco and drugs crimes, possessing the proceeds of crime and firearms offences.

Police found 1.5kg of cannabis, about $60,000 cash, 10 shotgun rounds and 1000kg of illicit tobacco at his place.

He was bailed to appear at Sunshine Magistrates Court on October 2.

Police seized about 1.2 tonnes of illicit tobacco, about $90,000 cash and six improperly stored firearms at two properties in Delahey.

A 35-year-old man at one of the houses will be charged with possessing illicit tobacco to defraud the revenue, possessing proceeds of crime and firearms offences.

Detectives also raided five large rural properties in Landsborough and Barkly in Victoria’s west where they didn’t find any illicit tobacco, although each property had evidence of recent tobacco harvest.

Police found 20,000 illicit cigarettes and cash at a separate Barkly property and interviewed and released a 40-year-old man, pending further inquiries.

The seizures demonstrated the police focus on targeting criminal syndicate leaders, directors, facilitators and organisers, Victoria Police Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt 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,” he said.