The Weekly Advertiser Horsham

Police search businesses


A national police operation has searched Wimmera, Mallee and Grampians tobacco stores and arrested seven people.

The VIPER Taskforce, comprising specialist Victoria Police officers, arrested seven people and seized more than 134,000 illicit cigarettes, 43kg of loose tobacco and 3655 vapes from businesses in western Victoria including Horsham, Stawell, Ararat, Warracknab­eal and Nhill on Thursday, which they believe is worth more than $350,000 in total. They also seized a conducted energy device and baton.

Among those arrested was a Williamsto­wn man, 40, who police will allege was delivering illicit tobacco to a Horsham business.

His vehicle was then searched and illicit tobacco, e-cigarettes and $40,000 cash was seized. He was interviewe­d and is expected to be charged on summons.

It came as police across Australia have arrested 25 people, executed 12 search warrants and 22 firearm prohibitio­n orders, searches and seized about $200,000 in cash and firearms targeting the Comanchero and Finks Outlaw motorcycle gangs.

In Victoria, this operation formed part of the ongoing investigat­ion by Taskforce Lunar into organised crime syndicates, including the Finks gang, linked to illicit tobacco.

As part of Taskforce Lunar’s investigat­ion, the VIPER Taskforce has conducted more than 60 searches of tobacco stores across the state since the beginning of October.

At this time, Taskforce Lunar investigat­ors believe the current situation is a result of criminal syndicates in conflict due to competitio­n for profit derived from the illicit tobacco market.

People with informatio­n about these incidents, or with further informatio­n about illicit tobacco, can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidenti­al crime report at crimestopp­

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