Australian Federal Police (AFP), with the assistance of Australian Border Force (ABF), have dismantled an alleged drug syndicate smuggling methamphetamine into Australia, after arresting three men in Western Sydney.
The three arrests last Tuesday (24 November 2020) are the culmination of an investigation launched in late 2019 by organised crime investigators based at the AFP’s Southern Command in Melbourne.
They come two months after an alleged fourth syndicate member was arrested in Sydney, when he allegedly tried to import a large consignment of methamphetamine unaware that police were watching.
Police will allege the Sydney-based group set up fake companies using fraudulent identification to import illicit drugs in an air cargo consignment from Malaysia.
ABF officers found 180 kilograms of methamphetamine when they searched a consignment of refrigerated air dryers, which arrived in Sydney from Malaysia in September (2020).
Each of the nine metal units allegedly held 20 vacuum sealed packets, all containing about one kilogram of a white crystalline substance that tested positive to methamphetamine.
The drugs had an estimated street value of up to $135 million.
AFP officers traced the consignment to an address in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria.
A search warrant was later executed at a residence in Chipping Norton on 16 September 2020, where officers arrested a 28-year-old man. He was charged with importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
Investigators seized a phone and fraudulent documents allegedly used to plan the importation and an estimated $250,000 in cash during the search.
Ongoing inquiries resulted in investigators executing search warrants at the homes of three other alleged syndicate members in Western Sydney last week (24 November 2020).
Police allegedly found a large number of fraudulent identity documents, mobile telephones, two firearms, ammunition and a ballistic vest during the warrants.
The three men, aged 20, 25 and 30, were each charged in relation to the importation of commercial quantities of drugs.
Police will allege the trio, and the man arrested previously, worked together to create the false companies and documents that were later used to import the methamphetamine in September.
They then arranged the collection of the methamphetamine from a freight forwarder in Alexandria for later distribution.
The three men faced Sydney Downing Centre on 25 November and were all remanded in custody. They are expected back in court next year (2021).
Commander of Investigations, AFP Southern Command, Commander Todd Hunter, said COVID-19 border restrictions have not prevented criminal groups from trying to bring illicit drugs into Australia.
“Sadly Australians are among the highest per capita users of methamphetamines and criminals will prey on that demand to make a profit,” Commander Hunter said. “Now, that greed is likely to end in long-term prison sentences.
“These arrests show the AFP and our partners are working hard to outsmart organised crime and protect the Australian community. It does not matter where criminals are operating, the AFP has international reach and national coverage. Any syndicate based in Sydney or elsewhere may find themselves investigated by AFP officers from anywhere in Australia, in this case our investigators are based in Melbourne.”
ABF Port Operations East Commander Danielle Yannopoulos said the ABF is committed to stopping harmful drugs reaching the Australian community.
“Methamphetamine destroys lives. ABF officers work tirelessly to stop shipments like this at the border,” Commander Yannopoulos said.
“This operation shows that regardless of which city the drugs are imported to, or how well they are concealed, the ABF will detect and seize them.”
Police are continuing investigations into the involvement of anyone else – both in Australia and overseas – and further arrests may be made.