A joint operation involving Victoria Police and Australian Border Force discovered illegal tobacco, following search warrants at shops in Kilmore, Seymour and Benalla early Friday morning.

The shops were in Sydney and Maher streets in Kilmore, Keith Street in Seymour and Nunn Street in Benalla.

Investigators found quantities of cigarettes, loose tobacco and cash at each premises.

A quantity of glass smoking pipes were also seized from the store in Seymour.

A second warrant at a secure storage facility in Kilmore resulted in the seizure of a large amount of illicit tobacco.

It is alleged the tobacco was smuggled into Australia avoiding custom taxes.

A Kilmore woman, 64, was interviewed and will be summonsed to appear at a Magistrates’ Court for offences under the Customs Act and for possessing the proceeds of crime.

A Shepparton man, 31, a Kialla woman, 21, and a Benalla woman, 40, were each interviewed and will be summonsed to appear at a Magistrates’ Court for offences under the Customs Act and for possessing proceeds of crime.

Officers from Kilmore police, Seymour police, Seymour Divisional Tasking Unit, Benalla Crime Investigation Unit and the Australian Border Force were involved in the warrants.

Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Maher, from Victoria Police Mitchell Crime Investigation Unit, said the sale of illicit tobacco and its links to further criminality could have a significant negative impact to rural communities and businesses.

“Victoria Police will continue to be relentless in its investigation of this illicit trade and I assure the public that this will not be tolerated in our regional community,” he said.

Acting ABF Special Operations Commander Colin Drysdale said the operation was a great start to shutting down the supply of illicit tobacco in regional Victoria, and the two agencies would continue to disrupt the supply and dismantle the criminal syndicates that support it.

“People need to be aware of what they’re buying and its greater links to criminality – not only is the profit of illicit tobacco under the counter robbing the Commonwealth of revenue, its usually funnelled back to organised criminal syndicates that are involved in drug trafficking and money laundering,” he said.

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