Four men have been arrested in Sydney and Melbourne for allegedly importing approximately 254kg of cocaine and 104kg of methyl-amphetamine into Australia.
Combined, the drugs had an estimated combined value in excess of $186 million.
An Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation commenced in December 2016 after the Australian Border Force (ABF) targeted a cargo consignment containing mining equipment which had arrived in Melbourne from South Africa.
ABF officers at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility examined the consignment which included industrial mining equipment. X-ray images revealed anomalies within an iron ore extractor.
It will be alleged that a physical examination of the iron ore extractor by ABF officers led to the discovery of 358 1kg block packages of cocaine and methyl-amphetamine, concealed within the equipment among a load of activated charcoal.
On 19 December 2016, the AFP commenced a controlled delivery where the consignment was delivered from Melbourne to a storage facility in Sydney.
Three men were arrested after accessing the consignment in Sydney on Sunday, 5 February 2017.
During additional search warrants on Monday, 6 February, 2017 on the Central Coast of NSW, AFP officers also seized a large sum of cash in a compressed block of AUD$100 notes. The notes are currently the subject of further forensic analysis.
A fourth man was arrested in Melbourne on Wednesday, 8 February 2017.
A 47-year-old (Watanobbi) man and 75-year-old male South African citizen were charged with:
- One count of attempt to import commercial quantities of border controlled drugs, pursuant to subsection 307.1 (1), by virtue of subsection 11.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) and;
- One count of attempt to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, pursuant to subsection 307.5 (1), by virtue of subsection 11.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
A 39-year-old (Doonside) man was charged with:
- One count of attempt to possess commercial quantities of border controlled drugs, pursuant to subsection 307.5(1) by virtue of subsection 11.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
A 38-year-old (Roxburgh Park) man was charged with:
- One count of import commercial quantities of border controlled drugs, pursuant to subsection 307.1 (1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment.
AFP Commander John Beveridge said the AFP and its partners are committed to protecting the Australian community from the scourge of illicit drugs through targeted detection and disruption.
“The AFP will continue to work with its partner law enforcement agencies to disrupt all forms of drug importation attempts and target those who believe they are above the law,” Commander Beveridge said.
“These arrests send a strong message to criminals who choose to import harmful drugs into our community for their own profits – you will be caught, no matter how creative you believe your concealment method may be.”
ABF Regional Commander Victoria and Tasmania, James Watson, praised ABF officers at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility for the outstanding detection.
“Our officers have the expertise and technology to detect even the most sophisticated concealment. In this instance, our upgraded container x-ray technology has been able to penetrate through several layers of steel, machinery and coal/stones to identify these concealed packages.”
“The success of this operation once again highlights how effectively Australia’s border and law enforcement agencies are working together to stop illicit drugs from entering our community, and how instrumental the ABF is in keeping these dangerous drugs off our streets.”
Three men appeared before Sydney Central Local Court on Monday, 6 February 2017 where they were remanded in custody.
A fourth man appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 8 February 2017 where he was remanded in custody to re-appear on 10 February 2017 for a filing hearing.
Investigations are continuing.