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IRONSIDE: Alleged Australian drug boss and syndicate nabbed after 160kg cocaine import in Melbourne

An alleged high-priority organised crime leader is among five people arrested in connection to the importation of more than 160 kilograms of cocaine into Melbourne, thanks to Operation IRONSIDE.

AFP investigators launched Operation IRONSIDE SOUTH-BRITANNIC following intelligence confirming a large-scale cocaine import arriving into Melbourne, via Sydney, from Hong Kong in late May, 2021.

It is alleged a transnational criminal syndicate operating out of Hong Kong and Turkey was using encrypted communications to coordinate the shipment, estimated to be worth more than $40 million dollars, via an onshore criminal syndicate leader in Sydney.

Acting on intelligence from the platform and with assistance from Australian Border Force (ABF) officers, AFP investigators moved quickly to intercept and seize the consignment of cocaine concealed inside a shipment of air filters that had arrived in Melbourne on Monday 31 May, 2021.

Five people have been arrested in connection to this operation, including the alleged Australian-based coordinator of the transnational organised crime syndicate, a 42-year-old Sydney man, along with four Victorians.

The 42-year-old Sydney man was arrested by AFP members with assistance from New South Wales Police on Tuesday 8 June 2021 following the execution of a search warrant in Leichhardt, New South Wales. He was charged with importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs.

In Victoria, three men accused of playing a role in the collection and distribution of the cocaine shipment were also arrested during rolling operational activity across Melbourne between 4 June and 6 June, 2021.

The trio include a 26-year-old Taylors Hill man, a 31-year-old Keilor East man and a 28-year-old St Kilda East man.

The men were each remanded in custody to reappear again at a later date.

Search warrants were executed in the Victorian suburbs of Taylors Hill, Keilor Park, Keilor East, Dandenong, Southbank, Point Cook and Laverton North along with in Leichhardt, New South Wales.

On Friday 4 June, 2021, an alleged cannabis grow house containing around 30 plants was detected by AFP members during a search warrant at the 31-year-old Keilor East man’s property. Victoria Police later took control of the scene and their investigation into the alleged grow house remains ongoing.

While a money counting machine and imitation rifle were allegedly seized during a search warrant at a Southbank property on Saturday 5 June, 2021.

On Friday 11 June, 2021, investigators arrested a fifth person in connection to the investigation, with a 44-year-old Taylors Hill man charged following the alleged discovery of large amounts of cash, estimated to be more than $500,000, concealed inside the walls and roof of his home. The man was charged with proceeds of crime offences.

Operation IRONSIDE SOUTH-BRITANNIC activity continued on Thursday 17 June, 2021, after AFP detectives executed an additional search warrant at a commercial property in Braybrook, seizing 30 containers of liquid containing liquid containing what police believe to be approximately 600 litres of pseudoephedrine.

The arrests are the latest in the historic, global coordinated joint law enforcement sting, Operation IRONSIDE, which has led to the mass disruption of the criminal environment across the nation and around the world.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Southern Command Bruce Giles said intelligence from Operation Ironside had enabled the AFP to again disrupt an alleged sophisticated criminal network and prevented more than approximately $40 million dollars of harmful illicit drugs from entering the Victorian community.

“Operation Ironside has opened the door to unprecedented collaboration across law enforcement agencies around the globe and across the nation,” Assistant Commissioner Giles said.

“These results again highlight the AFP’s commitment to keeping Australians safe, while also preventing harmful illicit drugs and weapons from reaching our streets, despite the pursuits of organised crime syndicates both here in our state and abroad.”

“This historic moment should serve as the strongest warning to criminals yet – we will continue to be relentless in our pursuit to target and disrupt your illicit operations and to bring you to justice.”

Victoria Police Organised Crime Division Detective Superintendent Craig Darlow said:

“Victoria Police will continue to assist and support the AFP and other agencies in the detection and disruption of organised crime within Victoria in order to prevent illicit drugs and firearms being distributed within our community.”

ABF Commander James Watson commented on the need for continued vigilance and collaboration in order to keep drugs off the street.

“These arrests are a timely reminder that criminals continue to operate, regardless of whether there is a pandemic, or a lockdown,” he said.

“The impact of this shipment of cocaine hitting the streets would have been devastating,” Commander Watson said.

“The ABF’s technical expertise and joint activity with law enforcement partners has a multiplier effect. Sharing intelligence and working together enhances the breadth of our reach to disrupt criminal activity, keeping the community safe from harmful drugs.”