Criminal syndicate linked to $150k illicit tobacco and vape bust

Approximately $150,000 worth of illicit tobacco and vapes have been seized as part of an ongoing investigation into a criminal syndicate.

Items were seized from a tobacco store, a storage facility in Keysborough, and a residential property in Truganina, and included several hundred packets and cartons of cigarettes, 1000 nicotine pouches, 10kg of loose tobacco, and over 1000 vapes, as well as a quantity of cash receipts and a ledger book.

A 35-year-old man, who had previously been arrested and charged in relation to the investigation, was arrested and charged with possessing tobacco products with intent to defraud the revenue and commit an indicatable offence whilst on bail.

Dan Ryan, Detective Acting Superintendent at Victoria Police, said the warrants this week highlight the ability for these criminal syndicates to almost immediately continue business as usual even after significant law enforcement disruption.

“The enormous profit that organised crime is making from the sale of illicit tobacco means that they will do everything possible to ensure they keep on trading, no matter the risk.”

Ryan explained that over the past 12 months, they have seen the illicit tobacco market become a significant driver of organised crime in Victoria and with that has come a series of reckless and violent offending, particularly arson attacks.

“Disrupting these syndicates in every way possible and ensuring we keep the pressure on these groups remains a priority for Victoria Police, and we will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners such as the AFP and ABF to do this.”

The arrest and seizures form part of Operation Tyers, a 17-month Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) investigation involving members from Victoria Police and the AFP along with seconded members of the Australian Border Force (ABF) Illicit Tobacco Taskforce.

David MacGregor, Detective Acting Superintendent at the AFP, said the AFP, together with state and Commonwealth partnerships are key to dismantling organised crime groups who attempt to profit from the importation of illicit commodities into Australia.

“Criminal syndicates will go to extreme lengths to illegally import any commodity that they can make money from. If you are an importer, distributer, seller, or buyer of illicit tobacco, you are supporting organised criminals and funding other illicit activities.”

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