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Police search Wimmera 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.

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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

The entire November 29, 2023 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 29, 2023 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!