Man charged after VIPER seized 90K cash and over 142,000 illicit cigarettes

Tuesday 12 March 2024 4:06pm – 

Officers from the VIPER Taskforce have charged a man overnight as part of an investigation into the alleged sale of illicit tobacco in Victoria.

Three search warrants were executed at two tobacco stores in Korumburra and Highett and a residential address in Hoppers Crossing yesterday afternoon.

A 48-year-old Hoppers Crossing man was interviewed by police and subsequently charged with 16 counts of possess tobacco products with intent to defraud, three counts of possessing schedule 4 poison and deal property suspected to be proceeds of crime.

He was remanded to appear at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 18 June.

More than 93,000 cigarettes (with a duty excise of over $232,000), over $90,000 cash, and a small quantity of e-cigarettes were located at the residential address.

Almost 30,000 cigarette sticks (with a duty excise of over $72,000), approximately six kilograms of loose-leaf tobacco, and a quantity of e cigarettes were seized from a tobacconist on Commercial Street in Korumburra.

A further 20,000 cigarette sticks (with a duty excise of almost $50,000), and various quantities of loose-leaf tobacco and e cigarettes were seized from a tobacco store on Highett Road in Highett.

The searches form part of the investigation by VIPER and Taskforce Lunar into a series of arson attacks linked to the illicit tobacco trade in Victoria.

Investigators are looking into a range of motivations for these fires and links to a range of organised crime syndicates.

Police are also working closely with a range of state and federal agencies, including the ABF and AFP as part of this investigation in order to disrupt the syndicates involved and hold those responsible for this offending to account.

The community, particularly tobacco store owners and staff, are a crucial part of our ability to stop these incidents before innocent people are killed or seriously injured.

Anyone with information on organised crime activity linked to illicit tobacco is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

Quotes attributable to Detective Inspector Craig Darlow, VIPER Taskforce:

“Victoria Police will continue relentlessly working our way up until we get all the way to the top of these organised crime groups. Every single person involved will be held to account.

“To that end, we implore any store owners who have information about illicit tobacco or the syndicates involved to provide that information to us. It can be done anonymously.

“We want to assure business owners that police are doing everything we can to put a stop to this and the danger these attacks present to both their livelihoods and staff.”