Lunar seize almost seven tonnes of illicit tobacco worth over $12 million

In a joint operation with the Australia Taxation Office, detectives from Taskforce Lunar have seized over $12 million worth of illicit tobacco as part of an investigation into the cultivation and distribution of illicit tobacco in eastern Victoria.

With assistance from the ATO, a Commonwealth search warrant was executed at a remote Arcadia property on Tuesday, 26 March..

A seven-acre illicit tobacco crop was located at the rear of the property, worth a total avoided excise value of almost $9 million. The dried weight was over four and a half tonnes.

There were no people present at the address, and the crop was 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 Undera.

Two large kilns were located at the rear of the property which investigators will allege were utilised to dry illicit tobacco.

Almost two tonnes of dried illicit tobacco, worth in excess of $3.5 million, were seized from the address.

Again under the seizure provisions of the Excise Act, the illicit tobacco was disposed of.

Five firearms which were improperly stored at the property were also seized, and a 73-year-old man, not believed to be connected to this investigation, was served with a notice of suspension and proposal to cancel a firearms licence.

On Monday, 17 June, as part of a joint investigation with Western Australia Police and with the assistance of VIPER Taskforce, three warrants were executed in Werribee (2) and Altona Meadows also linked to this investigation.

Approximately 50,000 illicit tobacco sticks, 30 kg of loose-leaf tobacco, vapes and a CCTV system were seized from the Werribee addresses – one residential address and one tobacco store.

A 36-year-old Werribee man, believed to own the Werribee store, was interviewed on Wednesday, 26 June in relation to possessing and producing illicit tobacco.

He is expected to be charged on summons.

Mobile phones were seized from the residential Altona Meadows address.

Police will allege the properties searched are linked to a significant leader of an organised crime syndicate involved in the illicit tobacco network.

The investigation remains ongoing.

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