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Kilmore and Epping men arrested following investigation into arson attacks

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Grace Frost
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FOUR people were arrested on Friday as part of an investigation into arson attacks on tobacco stores across Melbourne.

A 40-year-old Kilmore man and 33-year-old Epping man were among those arrested.

The arrests follow a series of 10 linked arson attacks on tobacco stores dating back to March.

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A Flemington woman, 31, and Melton man, 43, were also arrested, and police seized 1.5 kilograms of synthetic cannabis, 200 vapes, about 300 packets of illicit tobacco, plus a small quantity of cocaine.

Police believe an attempted extortion of a tobacco store owner in Eltham on June 26 is also linked.

Four men aged between 30 and 43 and all patched members of the Finks Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, including a Wallan man, 36, have since been charged with extortion and a range of other drug and firearm offences.

Detective Inspector Chris Murray from the arson and explosives squad said the arrests were ‘just the start’.

“We are very conscious that the individuals we have arrested so far are likely just the puppets for those pulling the strings in this syndicate,” he said.

“This is inherently dangerous behaviour and I want to assure the public that police will not tolerate such blatant and dangerous criminal conduct in our communities.”

Detective Acting Inspector Leigh Howse of VIPER Taskforce said the attacks and broader criminality were ‘incredibly concerning’.

“We know that there are people linked to several organised crime entities, including Middle Eastern Organised Crime groups and OMCGs, who are behind the illegal tobacco trade and the use of arson to threaten and extort the legitimate owners of these shops,” he said.

Anyone with information can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at crimestoppersvic.com.au.

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