$15 million of meth, guns and illicit cash seized

Fifteen people have been charged after a year-long WA joint law enforcement operation that resulted in the seizure of around $15 million worth of methylamphetamine (meth), four guns and more than $75,000 cash.

An Erskine man is expected to face Perth Magistrates Court today (3 January) accused of heading a WA syndicate that was allegedly distributing meth in Western Australia.

A WA Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (WA JOCTF) investigation targeting the alleged drug dealing, codenamed Operation Ajax Highview, has stopped almost 20kg of meth – with an estimated street value in excess of $15 million – reaching Perth streets.

Investigators have also uncovered a commercial size clandestine laboratory, which is being processed with the assistance of chemists from the WA ChemCentre.

It is still to be confirmed what type of drug was being produced but police suspect it is highly likely to be methylamphetamine.

Police further seized four guns, five other weapons, 41 cannabis plants and $75,000 cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime.

Operation Ajax Highview was launched in November 2018 after Australian Border Force officers intercepted two international mail packages each allegedly containing approximately six kilograms of methylamphetamine.

A woman and a man were charged at the time with attempting to import the illicit drugs.

Since then, investigators have charged several other people and seized various amounts of meth during its transportation from the eastern states, including allegedly by airline passengers and through the domestic air mail.

The year-long investigation culminated in the arrest yesterday (2 January 2020) of the alleged ringleader of a network police say was distributing drugs in Perth.

The 35-year-old Erskine man was arrested after investigators executed a search warrant at his family’s unit, where they allegedly found a handgun stored in a pantry, a flick knife, extendable baton and thousands of dollars cash.

He is expected to face Perth Magistrates Court today charged with:

•One count of possession of a firearm (9mm handgun) in circumstances of aggravation, contrary to section 19 (1)(c) of the Firearms Act 1973;

•Eight counts of sold, supplied or offered to supply a prohibited drug, namely methylamphetamine, contrary to section 6(1)(c) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981;

•One count of supplied a prohibited drug, namely 10 grams of cocaine, contrary to section 6(1)(c) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981;

•Two counts of offer to sell or supply a prohibited drug to another, contrary to section 6(1)(c) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981;

•One count of possession of unlawfully obtained property, namely $3,500 cash, contrary to section 417 (1) of the Criminal Code; and

•Two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon (a flick knife and an extendable baton), contrary to section 6(1)(b) of the Weapons Act 1999.

Three other men were arrested yesterday and charged with various drugs and weapons offences.

They will face court at a later date. Since November 2018, in total, two women and 13 men, aged between 24 and 75, have been charged with 64 offences during Operation Ajax Highview.

The WA JOCTF is a multi-agency taskforce comprising AFP, WA Police Force, Australian Border Force, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and the Department of Home Affairs.

AFP Detective Superintendent Crime Operations in Perth, Timothy Underhill, said the hard work of Operation Ajax Highview investigators had prevented approximately 200,000 hits of ice from reaching WA streets.

“While the methylamphetamine seized had an estimated street value of $15 million, the human cost would have been far greater,” Superintendent Underhill said.

“People involved in the illicit drug trade prey on our communities to make a profit and they don’t care about the devastation caused through the drug-related crime and associated health and social costs.

“This investigation is a testament to the dedication and collaboration of State and Commonwealth agencies to work together to combat organised crime distributing drugs in this State.”

Western Australia Police Force Serious and Organised Crime Division Detective Superintendent Tony Longhorn said the harm caused by methylamphetamine use in our community cannot be understated.

“These syndicates are directly responsible for the harm drugs cause on our streets, in our homes and to our families,” Det-Supt Longhorn said.

“They are responsible for the manufacture, importation and distribution of methylamphetamine into and within Western Australia and will remain the focus of State and Commonwealth law enforcement partners.”

ABF Regional Commander for WA, Rod O’Donnell, said ABF officers are constantly on alert for illicit drugs coming through international mail.

“Our officers are highly trained and use a range of assessment techniques to identify packages of interest and then utilise cutting edge x-ray and detection technology to identify prohibited items crossing the border,” Commander O’Donnell said.

“This investigation has again demonstrated how the great work of ABF officers on the frontline, followed up by the collaborative efforts of Commonwealth and State law enforcement agencies are protecting the community from the scourge of illicit drugs.”