International police investigation thwarts heroin imports destined for Australia

An international police investigation has foiled attempts by an organised crime syndicate to import approximately 74.5 kilograms of heroin from China to New South Wales and Western Australia.

The Australian Federal Police investigation began last month (April 2021) after the National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC) and the Guangdong Narcotics Control Board (NCB) in China intercepted multiple suspicious consignments destined for Australia.

When they examined the consignments, they allegedly found 254 blocks of ‘half-catti’ Double UOGlobe-branded heroin vacuum sealed in foil bags, and notified the AFP Guangzhou Office.

The illicit drugs were removed and replaced with an inert substance before four consignments were forwarded to their intended destinations – three in Newcastle, NSW, and one to Perth in Western Australia.

On 22 April (2021), AFP investigators, with assistance from the NSW Police Force State Crime Command’s Drug and Firearms Squad and Newcastle City Police District, arrested a 23-year-old man after he allegedly collected one package sent to a residence in Lambton in the Hunter region.

Police executed search warrants at several addresses across the region – in Jesmond, Belmont, Lambton and The Hill – and allegedly seized a small amount of drugs, cash, drug paraphernalia and a mobile phone, which will be subject to further forensic examination.

The 23-year-old man, who lives in The Hill, was arrested and charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

He appeared in Newcastle Local Court on 23 April and was remanded in custody to appear in court again in June (2021).

On 4 May (2021), AFP and Australian Border Force (ABF) investigators arrested a 17-year-old girl after she allegedly took possession of a package that was supposed to contain 22 kilograms of heroin.

Police searched her family’s home and allegedly found the package opened and in the teenager’s bedroom wardrobe.

The 17-year-old was refused police bail and faced Perth Children’s Court today (4 May 2021) charged with one count of attempting to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely heroin, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

Police are continuing to investigate links between the shipments and have not ruled out further arrests.

AFP Commander Asia Peter Sykora said this result is another example of the strong cooperation between Australian and Chinese law enforcement and our joint commitment to combat transnational organised crime.

“This collaborative effort has prevented approximately 74.5 kilograms of heroin from reaching Australian communities. This amount of drugs could have been sold to as many as 745,000 people, netting the criminals behind it at least $55,000,000* and causing widespread harm.”

Commander Sykora said figures released by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre last month (April 2021) found 474 Australians died in 2019 from heroin use.

“There is no safe level of heroin to ingest,” Commander Sykora said.

“It is common for drug distributors to add a variety of substances to heroin and other illicit drugs to increase the volume and, therefore make bigger profits. Anything from paracetamol to poisons can be added to the final product, you will never know what you are ingesting.

“Organised crime groups will try to distribute these substances in any area of Australia if they think they can make a profit – they don’t care about the harm they cause.

“The AFP is targeting these syndicates, and we are working with our law enforcement partners in Australia and offshore to outsmart them.”

ABF Regional Commander for WA, James Copeman, praised the joint agency cooperation that led to this outcome.

“Officers from the ABF are working with state and federal counterparts every single day to combat the scourge of illegal narcotic importation. We are focused on doing all that we can to protect the Australian community from this immense harm,” Commander Copeman said.