Gangland links to illegal trade

Gangland links to illegal trade

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Nine people were arrested as part of a crackdown on the illegal tobacco trade.

Local tobacconists have been targeted by a coordinated interstate police raid in an effort to squash a vast $10 million illegal tobacco network.

Between Sunday 16 June and Tuesday 18 June, a total of 50 search warrants were executed at homes, storage units, tobacco, convenience and gift stores in Perth and regional WA.

The Examiner can confirm two of those stores were in Armadale and Gosnells.

The raids were part of a joint operation between WA and Victorian Police and the Australian Border Force.

During the WA warrants the ABF deployed a team of investigators, digital forensic officers, members of the Illicit Tobacco Taskforce and currency-trained detection dogs.

A total of seven men and two women, including some with alleged links to a Middle Eastern crime group, have been charged with ‘receiving, possessing, concealing or disposing of money or other property that is the proceeds of an offence’.

Police seized 5.9 million cigarettes, 1.4 tonnes of loose tobacco, 41,000 vapes, $1.7 million in cash, and five vehicles during the raids.

The cigarettes themselves were valued at around $2.4 million.

Police have said those involved used cat food bags, among other disguises, to smuggle them into the state – avoiding taxes of up to $3 million.

“Attractive profit margins can be generated from the sale of illicit tobacco and this has caused an environment where organised crime groups are aggressively competing for market share, resulting in violent offences such as criminal damage, threats and extortion being undertaken in our community,” WAPOL’s Detective Acting Superintendent Jeff Beros said.

“We have seen this violence and harm being undertaken in other parts of Australia and we are resolute in not letting these groups flourish in Western Australia.”

In April, the WA Police Force Serious and Organised Crime Division established Taskforce Cosgrove in partnership with Victoria Police and Australian Border Force to investigate the illicit tobacco network and a series of arson offences in Perth, alleged to be linked to the network and crime group.

The alleged head of the group in Western Australia, 29-year-old Maytham Hamad, was arrested at his Mt Pleasant home during last week’s raids.

Mr Hamad is believed to have moved to WA from Victoria in the last two years to establish the illicit tobacco network.

His brother, the recently deported Kazem Hamad, is understood to be a gangland kingpin involved in the illicit tobacco trade in Melbourne, and behind a series of fire bombings of tobacco businesses in Victoria.

To date, more than 60 tobacco shops have been attacked across Victoria in what is believed to be an inter-gang turf war.

All tobacco products seized during last week’s search warrants have been taken by the ABF for further investigation and consideration of additional charges under federal taxation laws.

Similarly, vape related products have been provided to the WA Department of Health for further investigation.

“While we make every attempt to stop illicit tobacco at the border, we also work closely with our law enforcement partners to target the sale of illicit tobacco at the retail level by supporting these operations,” ABF Commander Ranjeev Maharaj said.

“The illicit tobacco trade is not a victimless crime, as profits raised from its sale fund other crimes, causing harm to the community in many ways.”

The investigation into the network in Victoria and in Western Australia and associated arson offences remains ongoing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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