A staggering $5.18 million worth of illegal tobacco was found growing at a rural property in Wyuna early yesterday.
Campaspe Criminal Investigation Unit, along with 10 members from the Australian Taxation Office’s criminal investigation section raided the McNee Rd property about 7am as part of a joint agency investigation into illegal tobacco cultivation.
Sergeant Shane Kervin of Echuca police said 4.5ha of tobacco was discovered, with the mature plants measuring about 1m.
‘‘It looked like the plants had been growing for at least a number of months or even longer,’’ he said.
‘‘The tobacco crop was processed by the ATO and destroyed by being ploughed into the ground.
‘‘Other equipment, including farming equipment, chemicals and irrigation products linked to the cultivation, were also seized.
‘‘There were signs that at least some harvesting had been done but no products were found on site so it looks like it was processed at another location.’’
Sgt Kervin said the property was unoccupied at the time, but the ATO was continuing to make inquiries into the operation.
While police were at the property, some Malaysian nationals arrived to work on the tobacco harvest. Immigration checks revealed two men, aged 23, were in Australia illegally after overstaying their visas and they were detained.
The investigation is continuing, with police urging anyone with information to contact police on 54831500 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.