A $200,000 haul of allegedly illegally imported cigarettes bound for Melbourne were found in a van stopped by police on the Hume Freeway on Saturday morning.
Benalla police highway patrol Sgt Darren Wittingslow said police pulled over a white Toyota Hiace on the freeway at Benalla after detecting it speeding about 10am.
The highway patrol officer found more than 1000 cigarette cartons worth $200,000 in cardboard boxes in the van, Sgt Wittingslow said.
Police said the cigarettes were imported from Asia and were being transported from Sydney to Melbourne.
“Investigations will be ongoing into the origins and the intended points of delivery and distribution,” Sgt Wittingslow said.
A 22-year-old man was charged with possessing and conveying illegally imported cigarettes.
He was bailed to appear at Benalla Magistrates’ Court next month.
Sgt Wittingslow said the cigarettes could have been brought in illegally to avoid a tax of more than $70,000 that would come with importing the goods.
He said the highway, the main thoroughfare between Sydney and Melbourne, is used to transport illegal goods.
Sgt Wittingslow said police have been trained to detect suspect vehicles and unusual driver behaviour.
The training is called CATCH — Crime and Traffic Connecting Highways — an American concept driven in Victoria by Shepparton-based Superintendent Mick Sayer.
“We’ve all been trained in CATCH and this was a classic CATCH training situation,” Sgt Wittingslow said.
“A couple of indicators were there and you kept looking and bang, there it was.”