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Major joint-agency operation targets cross-border organised crime

Saturday, 30 July 2022 01:22:57 AM

Police have dismantled a clandestine laboratory and seized prohibited drugs, cash, luxury cars and jewellery, following the conclusion of a joint-agency police operation conducted across Northern NSW and south-east Queensland targeting organised criminal networks (OCNs).

Operation Viking was established by the NSW Police Force, in partnership with the NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC), Queensland Police Service (QPS), Australian Federal Police (AFP), and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), to gather intelligence and further disrupt OCN activities across the Northern Rivers and Gold Coast border region.

During the multi-agency operation – which commenced at 6am last Monday (18 July 2022) and concluded at 5pm yesterday (Friday 29 July 2022) – police seized seven firearms, more than $150,000 cash, and a variety of prohibited drugs including methylamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis, with an estimated street value of more than $4.5 million.

Of note;

  • About 9pm on Monday (18 July 2022), investigators attended a property at Seelands, near Grafton. Upon arrival, police located significant quantities of precursor chemicals and equipment consistent with the manufacture of prohibited drugs, as well as around 1kg of cannabis. A crime scene was declared, before the site was handed over to specialist police from the Drug and Firearms Squad’s Chemical Operations Unit, who assisted in the dismantling of the lab and subsequent seizure of the chemicals. Inquiries continue.

  • About 7.45am on Tuesday (19 July 2022), police attached to Operation Viking attended a home on Parkway Drive at Ewingsdale and served a 44-year-old man with a Firearm Prohibition Order (FPO) notice. Following further inquiries, a crime scene was declared, and police subsequently seized $10,000 cash, numerous luxury watches, and electronic devices for forensic examination. Investigations continue.

  • About 3.40pm on Wednesday (20 July 2022), police attended a house on Marana Street at Bilambil Heights as the home’s occupant – a 36-year-old man who is a member of the Mongols OMCG – is subject to a Firearm Prohibition Order (FPO). During a subsequent search of the premises, police located a bar area at the rear of the home which contained a large selection of Mongols OMCG paraphernalia, quantities of alcohol with a price list, as well as an amount of cannabis. All items were seized, and the room was dismantled. Inquiries continue.

  • About 9am on Tuesday (26 July 2022), officers attached to Operation Viking attended a home on Philip Parade at Tweed Heads South and executed a Firearm Prohibition Order (FPO) search, locating and seizing a loaded rifle and ammunition in the home’s kitchen. A 27-year-old man was arrested and taken to Tweed Heads Police Station, where he was charged with possess unauthorised firearm, possess ammunition without holding licence, and not keep firearm safely. He was refused bail and appeared at Tweed Heads Local Court the following day, where he was formally refused bail to reappear at the same court on Friday 9 September 2022.

  • On Tuesday (26 July 2022), police attached to Operation Viking executed a search warrant at a residence in Carrara and located two hydroponic cannabis grow labs, in addition to 2.5kg of dried and packaged cannabis. A 55-year-old man was charged with Producing Dangerous Drugs, Possessing Dangerous Drugs (exceed schedule) and Possess things used in connection with Part 2 drug offence. He is due to appear in the Southport Magistrates Court on Wednesday 24 August 2022.

  • Just before 10am on Monday (25 July 2022), police executed a Firearm Prohibition Order (FPO) search at a home on Tringa Avenue at Tweed Heads, immediately noticing an amount of cannabis within the property and declaring a crime scene. During a subsequent search, police located and seized more than 130 grams of a white powder suspected to be cocaine, further amounts of cannabis, more than $18,000 cash, and numerous electronic devices. All items were seized for forensic analysis. Following further inquiries, a 53-year-old man attended Tweed Heads Police Station about 9am on Thursday (28 July 2022), and was charged with deal with property proceeds of crime, two counts of possess prohibited drug, and supply prohibited drug more than indictable amount. He was granted conditional bail to appear at Tweed Heads Local Court next month.

State Crime Commander, Acting Assistant Commissioner Jason Weinstein, said police engaged in two weeks of intensive overt and covert operations to gain a better understanding of OCN activity in the region.

“The northern border zone has the state’s largest OMCG population with a significant crossover between NSW and QLD,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Weinstein said.

“Alongside our law enforcement partners, we have now gathered sufficient intelligence on OCNs functioning across this area and will be well-equipped to deal with any organised criminal activity moving forward.

“We know criminal organisations were establishing themselves across the north coast because of its lucrative drug market and a perceived idea the area is relatively free of scrutiny from law enforcement.

“I’m confident that following these two weeks that perception has changed – as we continue to work closely through joint-operations to prevent, disrupt and respond to organised crime,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Weinstein said.

Queensland Police Service Assistant Commissioner Katherine Innes, Crime and Intelligence Command, said the successful culmination of Operation Viking has caused significant disruption to organised criminal syndicates and investigations will continue.

“This multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional operation highlights the importance, and significant resources Qld and NSW are prepared to place on stopping criminal groups, including OMCG’s from causing harm within our community.

“The relationship the QPS has with NSW Police and other law enforcement agencies again demonstrates the importance of partnerships nationally in our common purpose of to combatting organised crime and associated criminal activity.

“This operation should serve as a warning to anyone involved in organised criminal activity, that they will be detected and they will be held accountable, irrespective of a state border,” Assistant Commissioner Innes said.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Northern Command Lesa Gale said the AFP was a key partner in the multi-agency operation due to its ability to operate and gather intelligence across state borders.

“The AFP has a unique capability to gather intelligence and track criminal activity across state and territory borders and works closely with our state and territory partners in law enforcement,” Assistant Commissioner Gale said.

“The Queensland and NSW border is the most heavily populated border region in Australia and the AFP is committed to using our full capabilities to take the fight to outlaw motorcycle gangs and other serious organised crime networks trying to operate here.

“Our message to organised crime is simple; we will not stop in our mission to outsmart you and protect the Australian community.”

ACIC Acting Executive Director Intelligence Operations, Thomas Hester, said the organisation leveraged unique capabilities, including coercive powers, as a deliberate strategy to target criminal organisations in the border region.

“The criminal intelligence insights developed by the ACIC during this operation has significantly contributed to the results achieved by our policing partners over the last two weeks,” Mr Hester said.

“Given the nature of criminal organisations in the region, our relationships with state and federal policing partners are more important than ever before, and in addition to the results achieved, this operation has ensured we now have greater knowledge of organised crime networks operating in the area.”

“Our priority is to continue taking a coordinated multi-jurisdictional approach to target these networks, collect intelligence about their criminal activities to disrupt their operations and strip them of their criminal wealth.”

“The ACIC also wishes to acknowledge the dedicated policing and intelligence gathering efforts brought to bear against organised crime in this region.

The genuine collaboration and partnerships across all agencies and jurisdictions resulted in excellent outcomes for the communities affected by these criminal groups,” Mr Hester said.

Commissioner Michael Barnes, NSW Crime Commission, congratulated all of those involved in the operation.

“The success of these past two weeks demonstrates the effectiveness of state and commonwealth agencies collaborating to bring their respective unique capabilities to bear on OCNs,” Mr Barnes said.

“Significant law enforcement outcomes have been achieved, including proceeds of crime confiscation, and this is proof that criminals can’t escape the attention of law enforcement by moving to secluded areas,” Mr Barnes said.

Anyone with information about Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCGs) or organised criminal activity should 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.