Transnational drug syndicate dismantled; $50 million of cocaine seized during global operation

Wednesday, 20 July 2022 02:07:03 PM

A joint-agency police operation has resulted in the arrest of six men and the seizure of $50 million of cocaine, as part of ongoing investigations into a transnational criminal syndicate involved in the importation of prohibited drugs into NSW.

Earlier this year, Operation PHOBETOR – a joint squad combining the NSW Police Force (NSWPF), Australian Federal Police (AFP), and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) – in partnership with Australian Border Force (ABF), the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UKNCA), and the United Kingdom Border Force (UKBF) – commenced investigations into a criminal syndicate suspected to be involved in the importation of prohibited drugs.

Their inquiries uncovered an airfreight consignment which was found to contain 125kg of cocaine concealed within the base of an industrial generator.

The total estimated street value of the drugs is $50 million.

Following extensive inquiries, Organised Crime Squad detectives – assisted by Tactical Operations Unit (TOU), PolAir, and other specialist units – commenced a police operation at a property in Cawdor from 5pm yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 19 July 2022).

During that operation, two vehicles – including a Mercedes van and Pantech truck – left the property and travelled along the M7 before police attempted to stop both near Walgrove Road at Horsley Park.

It’s alleged the driver of the truck rammed several police cars before both vehicles were stopped following a short pursuit.

The driver and passenger of the truck – two men aged 29 and 32 – as well as the driver of the van, a 29-year-old man, were all arrested and taken to local police stations.

Later that evening, detectives – assisted by Public Order Riot Squad (PORS) – executed a search warrant at a property in Lane Cove.

A number of items and both vehicles have since been seized for forensic analysis.

A 29-year-old man has since been charged with import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug, supply prohibited drug more than large commercial quantity, and participate criminal group contribute criminal activity.

A 32-year-old man has been charged with import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug, supply prohibited drug more than large commercial quantity, participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, and use offensive weapon to prevent lawful detention.

The two men were refused bail to appear at Fairfield Local Court today (Wednesday 20 July 2022).

A second 29-year-old man has been charged with import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug and participate criminal group contribute criminal activity.

He was refused bail to appear at Liverpool Local Court today (Wednesday 20 July 2022).

About the same time, officers attached to the United Kingdom’s NCA executed a number of warrants in Rayleigh, Essex, South Ockenden, and Feltham, west London.

A 29-year-old man was arrested in Wickford, Essex, a 43-year-old man was arrested in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, and a 42-year-old man was arrested in Romford, Essex.

All were held on suspicion of conspiracy to export a controlled drug and are now being questioned by NCA officers.

Organised Crime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow, said police will allege the men form part of a sophisticated network involved in the commercial supply of drugs across the globe.

“This was clearly a highly coordinated syndicate who have gone to extreme efforts both here and in Europe to ensure their shipment of drugs arrived uninhibited,” Det Supt Critchlow said.

“Our intelligence sharing capabilities both here and overseas has resulted in the complete devastation of this criminal enterprise – and the prospect of a lengthy prison term for each of those involved.

NCA Branch Commander Lydia Bloomfield said:

“Our investigation has targeted a network we suspect was providing a rare and highly sophisticated service to other organised crime groups.”

“A shipment of this quantity of cocaine from the UK to Australia is unusual but demonstrates the global scale of the class A drugs trade – which causes violence and intimidation throughout its supply chain.

“This operation has been planned and carried out alongside our partners including Border Force and New South Wales Police. We work closely with partners around the world to combat the highest risk organised crime threats.”

Acting ABF Commander Trade and Travel Operations East, Elke West, stressed the important role that strong law enforcement partnerships play in disrupting and dismantling criminal syndicates involved in the importation of border-controlled drugs.

“The ABF works tirelessly with its partners both here in Australia and internationally to ensure illicit drugs don’t reach our communities,” said A/g Commander West.

“This is another great result, and we will continue to work closely with our partners to detect and disrupt criminal efforts to circumvent our border controls.”

Anyone with information about the importation or supply of prohibited drugs is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.