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Another Melbourne tobacconist firebombed in turf war between Middle Eastern crime gangs

Another Melbourne tobacconist has been firebombed – the fifth in a week – amid an ongoing turf war between Middle Eastern organised crime gangs for control of the city’s illegal tobacco market.

Explosions erupting from the suspicious blaze at the tobacco store in Craigieburn sent shrapnel into nearby homes at about 3.30am on Sunday, and a neighbour’s roof was set on fire. A burned out car was also seen nearby.

Victoria Police’s Taskforce Lunar now has 28 active arson investigations into fires at tobacco stores, gyms, restaurants and private homes.

On Saturday police arrested three members of the Finks outlaw motorcycle gang and two more males with bikie links, over a series of alleged arson attacks between Christmas and January 12.

Police said they believe criminal syndicates are vying for control for the city’s illicit tobacco market.

“The current conflict includes both the physical placement of illicit tobacco into stores, as well as demands for stores to sell the syndicate‚Äôs illicit product and to pay a ‘tax’ per week to operate,” police said in a statement on Saturday.

“The syndicates are comprised of personnel from Middle Eastern Organised Crime groups and Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, who are then engaging local networked youth, street gangs and other low-level criminal to carry out the offending.”

The latest arson attack came on the same day as the federal government announced a new crackdown on illegal tobacco importations, with $188.5 million over the next for years for the Australian Border Force.

 

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