Police find illegal tobacco, cash, in border blitz

Police say the arrests of 22 people are linked to the illegal tobacco war in Victoria.

Police say the arrests of 22 people are linked to the illegal tobacco war in Victoria. Photo: AAP

Twenty-two people have been arrested in an illicit tobacco and drugs crackdown by NSW Police on the state’s Victorian border amid a turf war allegedly linked to organised crime.

The two-day blitz this week in the NSW towns of Albury, Lavington and Howlong led to the seizure of 95,250 cigarettes worth more than $142,000, police said in a statement on Friday.

It also resulted in the seizure of 505 vapes, with an estimated value of $30,0000, four weapons and $28,000 in cash alleged to be proceeds of crime.

The clampdown comes after 60 arson attacks at tobacco stores in neighbouring Victoria in the past 15 months.

Victoria Police say the firebombings are linked to a conflict between crime syndicates over the state’s illegal tobacco trade.

About $12 million worth of illegal tobacco was seized this week near the Victoria-NSW border by Victoria Police and the Australian Tax Office.

Speaking in Albury, NSW Detective Superintendent Tim Beattie said police predicted more arrests related to the illegal trade, which crossed state lines.

“There’s certainly plenty of examples of vehicles being found with tobacco products, large quantities of tobacco products, up and down between Victoria and NSW,” Det Supt Beattie said on Friday.

“We see that often.”

Several stores in the area had been involved in the sale of illegal tobacco, he said, adding that those arrested were facing a total of 46 charges.

The main focus of the operation, which began in March and is known as Cecum, remained the “scourge” of illegal drugs in the state’s south, he said.

“There’s terrible drugs in the community.

“They have a big impact on communities, families, domestic violence – it’s all interlinked.”

The operation involved police from the Southern Region Enforcement Squad, the police helicopter, the Dog Unit, officers from the Murray River Police District and personnel from NSW Health.


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