645kg of MDMA in BBQs seized in global drugs bust
A joint law enforcement operation spanning six months and three countries has resulted in the seizure of 645kg of MDMA in Sydney, and the arrest of two people.
This investigation has involved the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, the Cyprus Drug Law Enforcement Unit and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency.
A 30-year-old man from Coomera and a 33-year-old Canadian national were arrested and charged over their involvement in the criminal enterprise to import the MDMA.
Three search warrants were executed in Cyprus by the DLEU and two in the London areas of Ilford and Edmonton by the NCA as part of efforts to obtain evidence to identify those responsible for facilitating the importation. Search warrants were executed in NSW at Bondi Junction, Surry Hills, Canley Heights and Tahmoor following the Coomera man's arrest, while another was executed at Smeaton Grange this morning. A premises in Brisbane, Queensland, was also searched last night.
Approximately $300,000 in cash was seized at the Bondi Junction and Canley Heights premises, while 3.5kg of cocaine was also seized at Canley Heights.
The investigation began in early July, when Cyprus Police obtained information about the potential export of a large amount of drugs from Cyprus to Australia. The DLEU conducted an investigation in Cyprus and identified a suspicious consignment in a container which had already departed the port of Limassol for Sydney.
ABF officers acted on this information and intercepted the container in July. It was found to contain 200 aluminium barbeques. Deconstruction of the barbeques revealed a large portion had false base plates, each concealing multiple packages of a brown crystalline substance. Forensic analysis determined the packages contained a total of 645kg of MDMA.
The drugs were seized by AFP and an investigation launched. Investigators replaced the MDMA with an inert substance and began a controlled delivery on July 22. The consignment was delivered to a warehouse in Matraville, where it sat for more than three months.
Beginning in late October, the barbeques were gradually transferred to another warehouse at Smeaton Grange. It will be alleged in court that the Coomera man travelled to Sydney at that time to remove the MDMA from some of the barbeques and prepare it for further distribution. The man has remained in Sydney for almost two months, and was arrested at a rented apartment in Bondi Junction yesterday afternoon. He is expected to face Sydney Central Local Court today.
The Canadian man arrived in Sydney last week and visited the warehouse at Smeaton Grange the next day. It will be alleged in court that he acted as a liaison for the criminal group responsible for importing the MDMA. He was arrested by AFP officers in Brisbane yesterday.
He is expected to face Brisbane Magistrates Court today, and will later be extradited to NSW.
AFP Commander Organised Crime Kirsty Schofield said the seizure was a significant result for public safety.
"The size of this seizure and the amount of harm it could potentially have caused cannot be understated, and the Australian community is safer for it not being on our streets," she said.
"We are grateful to our partners in Cyprus and the UK for their willingness to help us as we seek to identify those responsible for this consignment - we will always try and work our way up the chain of organised crime syndicates seeking to profit from exploiting our community.
"The reality is these drugs put strain on our health services and our economy, they tear apart families and the illicit proceeds fund organised crime. It is our job to protect Australia from to these threats."
The investigation remains ongoing and is expected to lead to further arrests.
The Coomera man was charged with one count of attempt to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug, namely MDMA, contrary to sections 307.5(1), by virtue of 11.1(1), of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.
The Canadian man was charged with one count of aid, abet counsel or procure an imported border controlled drug contrary to sections 307.1, by virtue of 11.2(1), of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).