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Middle Eastern gangs torch more stores in Melbourne’s tobacco turf war while cops harass nationalist over peaceful protest

Middle Eastern organised crime gangs attacked three more stores in Melbourne last week, including one which was set alight as cops were busy travelling to harass a nationalist activist over a peaceful protest.

The tobacco turf war between rival gangs fighting for control of the illegal tobacco market has resulted in almost 80 firebombings in the past 16 months, with Victoria Police so far unable to stop regular attacks on tobacconists, convenience stores, restaurants and reception centres.

Harry’s Mart on Chapel Street in Prahran was torched in what police say was a targeted attack at about 4am on Thursday, while there was a failed arson attempt on JB’s Smokes & Gifts in Footscray at 3am on Friday before a shisha and vape shop in Coburg was set ablaze 90 minutes later.

At the same time as the Chapel Street convenience store went up in flames, three Victoria Police officers were on their way to nationalist activist Thomas Sewell‘s home to demand he attend an interview about a protest which took place in Ballarat on December 3, 2023.

Mr Sewell, the leader of the European Australian Movement, recorded his interaction with the officers (see video above), who knocked on his door at 6am, waking his infant child who could be heard crying in the background.

The officers demanded Mr Sewell accompany them to the police station for an interview, telling him that they were investigating him for “grossly offensive public conduct” over the protest, where the right-wing activist group National Socialist Network marched through the town with a banner saying “Australia for the White man”.

None of the protesters were arrested on the day.

“What was the grossly offensive behaviour?” asked Mr Sewell, who also informed the police during the conversation that there were two break-ins on his street that week.

“It’s in regard to your marching and your protest that day, at this point there just needs to be an interview, and then you’ll be right to come back home again,” one of the officers, who said he had driven all the way from Ballarat, replied.

“We need to go back to the police station,” he repeated later in the conversation, but when Mr Sewell asked whether he was legally compelled to attend the interview, the officer said they had a “power of arrest” since they were investigating an indictable offence.

Mr Sewell told the officers that since they had no court papers requiring him to attend the interview he would have to decline, and later said on social media that the police left his home shortly afterwards, and was not arrested or charged.

In January, after five arson attacks in one week, Victoria Police spoke out about the criminals groups behind Melbourne’s underworld war over illegal tobacco.

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

“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.”

Noticer News contacted Victoria Police for comment.

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