Landlords urged to dob in letter from cops

Landlords potentially caught up in Victoria’s illicit tobacco trade have been warned of the insurance risks that come from crime, with council letters sent out to shop owners across metropolitical and regional areas advising them of potential “adverse impacts” to their coverage.

Victorian Police, in conjunction with councils, have warned owners that Taskforce Lunar investigators notify insurance companies of their arson investigations if there is evidence to suggest illegal products may have been sold or distributed from the premise.

“Recent arson attacks have led to detectives from the Arson and Explosives Squad and the Lunar Taskforce locating illegal tobacco, including cigarettes and vapes inside the premises subject to the arson attacks,” the letter reads.

“In addition, multiple warrants have been executed throughout Victoria during which such products have allegedly been located and alleged offenders charged.

“The premises which you own, and which is currently occupied is one such premises.

“The above events have led to general discussions between police and insurance companies.

“As a result of these discussions, it is recommended that you raise this matter with your insurer forthwith as knowledge of this alleged conduct may adversely impact on the status of your insurance should it not be disclosed and should a claim be subsequently made.”

landlords urged to dob in letter from cops

Landlords urged to dob in letter from cops

A second more general letter follows the same wording, but does not include the line, “the premises which you own, and which is currently occupied is one such premises”.

The letters are stamped May 21.

“The purpose of the letter is to highlight to landlords the current risks around businesses operating who are engaged in illicit activity, and the risk they present,” the police said on Monday morning.

“This includes the risk to current insurance arrangements as well as the potential for nearby businesses and properties to be adversely impacted by the fires and other criminal activity.”

Arson attacks have hit 59 shops selling tobacco across Victoria.

Taskforce Lunar was established in October 2023 to investigate organised crime syndicates believed to be involved in the illicit trade.

Detectives have arrested 62 people so far as a result of their investigations and more than 100 search warrants have been executed on properties linked to illicit tobacco.

landlords urged to dob in letter from cops

Crime Command Acting Commander Jason Kelly said assistance and information from store owners, staff, other shop owners and members of the community would be “crucial” to ending the crime-ridden trade.

“The intelligence they can provide may be crucial in preventing an arson attack or holding those involved in serious criminality to account,” he said.

“We encourage anyone with information to speak to police, or information can also be provided to police anonymously via Crime Stoppers.

“This series has now been running for 15 months and while we have arrested a significant number of people and put them before the court, we acknowledge we need to look at innovative ways to target this issue.

“One way of doing this is by speaking to those who own these properties and lease them to people actively engaging in organised crime.

“Not only does this criminal behaviour put neighbouring businesses and innocent members of the community at risk, it may impact any potential insurance pay out to the building owner.

“Those owners need to be aware of this and be aware of who is leasing the buildings they own.”

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