News State Victoria News Police raids target Middle Eastern crime gangs

Police raids target Middle Eastern crime gangs

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Almost 30 people linked to a Middle Eastern crime syndicate have been arrested in early morning raids, with Victorian police seizing weapons, drugs, tobacco and stolen goods.

Police arrested 27 people at 45 addresses mainly in Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs on Tuesday morning.

More than 35,000 tobacco plants were seized at a property at Moorabool and a clandestine laboratory was raided in Sunshine.

Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said police also seized $55,000 in cash, a large amount of ammunition, a large quantity of fireworks and firearms and 100kg of dried cannabis.

The stash included handguns, a silencer and what appeared to be a large high-powered assault weapon.

A number of people will be charged later on Tuesday with commercial drug trafficking and associated crimes, Mr Fontana said.

The pre-dawn raids targeted a “well known” Middle Eastern family-based syndicate allegedly involved in trafficking firearms and commercial quantities of drugs, he said.

The focus was predominantly on the one crime family and their associates.

More than 700 police officers, backed by other agencies, were involved in the operation, which began about 4.30am (AEDT) and will continue through the day.

Raids were conducted in Altona North, Williamstown, Truganina, Sunshine and other suburbs.

Five police guarded the entrance to an Altona smash repairs workshop, Melbourne A Class Smash Repairs, which was the primary target of the raids.

Mr Fontana said the raids were high risk, but no police or arrested persons were injured.

“This was a high-risk operation. There was a number of individuals there we considered to be highly dangerous,” he told reporters.

It’s part of the work being done by the Santiago Taskforce, targeting Middle Eastern crime rings.

The taskforce was set up by Victoria Police in 2008 to address serious and organised crime, including shooting incidents involving a number of families and their associates.