The Australian Border Force (ABF) led Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) executed multiple search warrants last week at a number of premises across Melbourne including four residential addresses, a storage facility and three commercial properties.
The operational activity resulted in the ITTF seizing a large quantity of illicit cigarettes, rough-cut tobacco (chop chop), cigarette manufacturing supplies, drug paraphernalia and one vehicle.
At two of the residences, ITTF officers found significant evidence of a cigarette manufacturing operation. Inspection of the residences uncovered rough cut tobacco as well as empty cigarette tubes and a large quantity of dried plant matter commonly used as cigarette filler. Machinery such as cutters, scales, microwaves and filling machines used in the manufacture process was also located. In addition, three unlawful non-citizens were also found to be working at the manufacturing facility. Two were arrested after attempting to abscond and upon their arrest, all three unlawful non-citizens were taken to detention.
At one of the commercial premises, ITTF officers found filled cigarettes along with additional rough cut tobacco. A concealment was located in a wall behind a sliding false back of a shelf where more cigarettes were found.
A 47 year old woman was arrested as the alleged leader of the operation. She is due to appear before the court on Monday, 28 October 2019.
ITTF Superintendent Leo Lahey said the operation marks another successful outcome for the multi-agency taskforce.
“We are very proud of our ITTF officers and colleagues for their exceptional work which has resulted in the taskforce seizing seven (7) 4.2m trucks worth of illicit sticks, rough-cut tobacco, cigarette manufacturing supplies and drug paraphernalia, successfully disrupting and dismantling this illegal manufacturing operation,” Superintendent Lahey said.
“We will continue to target the organised crime syndicates that trade in illicit tobacco.”