Sixth man arrested as part of investigation into arson attacks

Detectives from Taskforce Lunar have arrested a sixth man as part of a series of arson attacks across Melbourne this year.

A 23-year-old Sunshine West man was arrested earlier today and has been interviewed by police.

He will charged with criminal damage by fire (x3) and aggravated carjacking.

The man is expected to face Melbourne Magistrates’ Court tonight.

The charges are related to the following incidents:

• A fire at a café on Lobelia Drive, Altona North on 9 January;

• A fire at a tobacco store on Pier Street, Altona on 12 January;

• A fire at a store on Glengala Road, Sunshine West on 12 January; and

• A carjacking in Braybrook on 12 January.

Last week detectives arrested five people as part of their investigation into the series of fires, which also includes incidents at tobacco stores in Croydon and Moe on Christmas Day last year.

A number of those arrested have links to the Finks Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMCG).

The joint investigation by the Echo, Lunar and VIPER taskforces and the Australian Federal Police resulted in a 41-year-old Werribee man, a 30-year-old Templestowe man, a 32-year-old Albion man and a 37-year-old Point Cook man being charged with a range of arson offences.

A 17-year-old Yarraville boy was also interviewed and released pending further enquiries.

The investigation remains ongoing.

Taskforce Lunar currently has 29 active arson investigations, which include tobacco stores, vehicles, gyms, restaurants and private addresses.

Since October, the VIPER Taskforce has executed almost 70 warrants at tobacco stores across the state believed to be involved in the sale of illicit tobacco, resulting in the seizure of illicit tobacco products valued at almost $10M as well as other drugs, cash and weapons.

At this time, Taskforce Lunar investigators believe the current situation is as a result of criminal syndicates in conflict due to competition for profit derived from the illicit tobacco market.

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 believe 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.

Investigators continue to appeal to anyone, especially store owners and staff, who has information about these incidents and who is responsible to come forward.

Anyone with information about these incidents or with further information about illicit tobacco is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report at

Quotes attributable to Detective Inspector Graham Banks, Lunar Taskforce:

“We’ve now arrested six people in relation to this series of fires, which is an excellent result.

“These fires caused significant property damage and have a direct impact of people’s livelihoods.

“We’ve also been extremely clear from the start that these fires have the potential to seriously injure or even kill someone.

“I want to assure the community that we are doing everything we can to hold everyone involved in this risky behaviour to account – this includes those lighting the fires, those stealing vehicles to undertake this offending, and those commissioning the fires as part of the ongoing dispute.

“Again, I’m urging anyone out there who does have information which could assist this investigation to come forward. I am particularly appealing to anyone in the retail sector who has direct knowledge of who is involved to speak to police and as always, this can be done anonymously.”

/Public Release. View in full here.