Ongoing Taskforce Lunar Investigation Leads to Arrest and Seizure of Contraband Worth Over $750,000
In a significant breakthrough, members of the VIPER Taskforce conducted a series of raids overnight, resulting in the arrest of a 48-year-old man and the confiscation of a substantial quantity of illicit tobacco products. The operation, part of the ongoing Taskforce Lunar investigation, is aimed at dismantling organized crime syndicates associated with the illegal tobacco trade.
The investigation was launched based on intelligence suggesting that large volumes of illicit tobacco were being stored in sheds for daily distribution to tobacconists. Warrants were executed at a residential address in Hoppers Crossing, alongside three storage facilities in Highett and Korumburra (2), as well as a tobacco store in Korumburra.
The seized items include over 528,000 cigarettes with a duty excise totaling over $656,000, 25kg of loose leaf tobacco with an evaded duty excise totaling over $46,000, and over 1600 e-cigarettes (vapes) with a street value exceeding $48,000.
The arrested individual, a Hoppers Crossing resident, is believed to be the supplier, and he now faces charges under the Commonwealth offence of possessing/conveying tobacco with intent to defraud the revenue. The 48-year-old was granted bail and is scheduled to appear at Werribee Magistrates’ Court on July 1, 2024.
Detective Inspector Craig Darlow from the VIPER Taskforce emphasized the community’s role in providing crucial information, stating, “It is critical that anyone purchasing illicit tobacco understands the ramifications of doing so – you are directly funding organized crime groups. The profits from the sale of illicit tobacco will fund further and often incredibly serious criminality, such as the importation of illicit drugs and firearms.”
The investigation is ongoing, with authorities urging anyone with information related to the incident or possessing additional details on illicit tobacco activities to contact Crime Stoppers at 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.