Mornington Peninsula

Nearly seven tonnes of illicit tobacco seized in Victoria

Detectives from Taskforce Lunar have seized over $12 million worth of illicit tobacco at properties in Victoria.

In a joint operation with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), a Commonwealth search warrant was executed at a remote Arcadia property on Tuesday, 26 March, where a seven-acre illicit tobacco crop was located and subsequently ploughed under the seizure provisions of the Excise Act.

On Tuesday, 7 May, a second Commonwealth search warrant was executed at a residential address in in Undera, where almost two tonnes of dried illicit tobacco was found along with two large kilns investigators allege were used to dry the tobacco. The tobacco was seized and destroyed.

The total value of the two seizures were $9 million and $3.5 million respectively.

Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Hatt, State Anti-Gangs Division, Crime Command – Victoria Police, said they have made it clear that they will target anyone at any level across the state who is involved in the distribution and sale of illicit tobacco, and that involves regional Victoria.

“There seems to be a mistaken belief that you are safe from being targeted and out of constant law enforcement attention in country areas. This could not be further from the truth.

“These seizures – and their potential value in avoided excise – are significant, and their impact will no doubt be felt by the organised crime groups operating in Victoria. They will also provide further avenues of enquiry for Victoria Police.”

Jade Hawkins, ATO Assistant Commissioner, said engaging in the illicit tobacco trade is a serious offence and is far from victimless.

“The success of these significant operations has required the close collaboration of law enforcement agencies at all levels of government to detect, disrupt and dismantle organised crime syndicates who use profits from illicit tobacco to fund other more serious illegal activities.

“Illicit tobacco retailers gain an unfair price advantage over honest businesses who do the right thing. Removing illegal tobacco from crop to the shop creates a level playing field for those small businesses.”

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