Melton tobacco store set on fire in suspected feud

A tobacco store in Melton was the target of an arson attack on New Year’s Eve, which police believe may be linked to an ongoing tobacco feud in Queensland. The fire caused extensive damage to the store and forced the evacuation of six nearby businesses. No one was injured in the incident, but police are appealing for witnesses and information.

The fire broke out at the High Street store shortly before midday on Saturday, December 31, 2022. Emergency services were called to the scene following reports of smoke. Investigators found that a hole had been drilled through the roof of the property, and accelerant had been poured through and used to ignite the fire.

Police have released CCTV and images of a man they believe can assist with their inquiries. He is perceived to be of Middle Eastern appearance, approximately 180cm tall, with a medium build, and dark facial hair. He was seen outside the store just after 8am wearing a Tommy Hilfiger hoodie, dark grey trousers, white sneakers, a hi vis vest and a khaki wide brimmed hat. He later returned to the front of the store wearing a black hoodie and a navy cap.

Echo Taskforce investigates possible link to Queensland tobacco feud

The investigation is being led by the Echo Taskforce, which is responsible for tackling serious and organised crime in Victoria. The taskforce is liaising with the Queensland Police Service, as they suspect the arson may be related to a tobacco feud that has been raging in Queensland for several years.

The feud involves rival groups of tobacco growers and distributors, who have been competing for the lucrative black market trade. The feud has resulted in several violent incidents, such as shootings, stabbings, kidnappings, and arson attacks. The groups have also been using QR codes and encrypted messaging apps to advertise and sell their products online, posing as legal cannabis sellers.

Police have warned the public not to scan the QR codes or visit the websites, as they could be exposing themselves to risks of fraud, identity theft, or prosecution. They have also urged anyone who has information about the Melton arson or the tobacco feud to contact them or Crimestoppers anonymously.

Tobacco remains illegal and harmful in Australia

Tobacco is a highly addictive and harmful substance, which can cause various diseases and cancers. Tobacco is also illegal to grow, produce, or supply in Australia without a licence, and is subject to strict regulations and taxes. Anyone who is caught with tobacco can face hefty fines or imprisonment.

The public is advised to stay away from any websites or apps that claim to sell legal tobacco, as they are likely to be scams or criminal enterprises. Anyone who wants to quit smoking or reduce their tobacco consumption can seek help from various services and programs, such as Quitline, QuitCoach, or Quit for You – Quit for Two.

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