Two men have been arrested by the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Task Force (QJOCTF), following an alleged conspiracy to import 300 kilograms of cocaine into Australia from Peru via Singapore and Papua New Guinea (PNG). One woman has also been arrested and charged with dealing in proceeds of crime.
The estimated street value of the cocaine; had it reached Australian communities, is $105 million.
Operation Harmanecka began in June 2017, after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) identified an Australian and PNG based syndicate suspected of planning a drug importation into Australia from Peru.
The investigation identified a sea container aboard a cargo vessel headed from Peru to Singapore in late 2017. The container was then on forwarded to PNG where it is alleged the syndicate expected to retrieve 300kgs of cocaine which was to be imported to Australia via small craft through the Torres Strait. This attempt by the syndicate was unsuccessful, with no cocaine located when the container was opened in PNG.
By working closely with the AFP’s International Liaison Network and Peruvian authorities, the investigation identified a number of Peruvian-based nationals involved in conspiring with the Australian syndicate to arrange a second importation.
As these negotiations neared completion, Peruvian law enforcement dismantled the Peruvian syndicate and seized approximately 1.2 tons of cocaine. It will be alleged included among those arrested by Peruvian authorities was a Peruvian businessman who conspired with the Australian and PNG-based syndicate members.
The dismantling of the Peruvian crime syndicate triggered today’s overt action by Australian law enforcement with search warrants executed in Queensland, New South Wales and PNG.
Two search warrants were executed in the Sydney suburbs of Maroubra and Rozelle with two men (aged 57 and 63) arrested. Both men are expected to be charged with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs contrary to section 11.5 (1) and 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Commonwealth). The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment. JOCTF investigators will apply to the courts in NSW for these two men to be extradited to Queensland.
Two search warrants were executed in Queensland in the suburbs of Woodridge and Airlie Beach with one woman (aged 34) arrested in Woodridge. The woman is expected to be charged with dealing in proceeds of crime - money or property worth $10,000 or more, contrary to Section 400.6 (2) Criminal Code Act 1995 (Commonwealth).
QJOCTF members remain in PNG and are working closely with local authorities with the view of commencing appropriate legal proceedings in relation to a PNG national involved in the conspiracy.
AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Bruce Hill, National Manager Organised Crime, said the QJOCTF has achieved a terrific outcome that continues to highlight the success of the collaborative approach with international law enforcement agencies both in Australia and abroad.
“These arrests would not have been possible without the significant assistance provided by Peruvian, Singapore, Malaysian and PNG law enforcement,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Hill said.
“We will be relentless in our pursuit of transnational organised crime. This result is a clear example of what the combined powers of all of our agencies can achieve.”
QPS Assistant Commissioner Maurice Carless said Queensland police will continue to work with partner agencies to target and disrupt organised crime and the drug trade in our country.
“Organised criminal activity has no boundaries with its influences impacting on Queensland from interstate and internationally. The QPS is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to provide a united front against organised crime and the distribution of dangerous drugs into our community. This seizure, and arrest of the principal offenders responsible is another example of the effectiveness of these law enforcement partnerships,” Assistant Commissioner Carless said.
Australian Border Force (ABF) Assistant Commissioner, Enforcement Command, Sharon Huey said Australian agencies work closely with PNG authorities to combat the threat of criminal groups attempting to use small craft to smuggle illicit goods through the Torres Strait.
“As well as maintaining a strong, visible presence in the region, the ABF and our partner agencies work closely with PNG Customs and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, to ensure the area is properly monitored and protected from criminal activity,” Assistant Commissioner Huey said.
“As this operation demonstrates, these partnerships allow agencies to effectively combine their resources and are successful in detecting and investigating illegal activity in the region.”
Acting ACIC State Manager Queensland, Toby Evans said the ACIC is committed to working with its partners to discover, understand and respond to crime.
“We work closely with many national and international partners to disrupt the activities of serious and organised crime targets and reduce their impact on Australia.” Mr Evans said.
AUSTRAC National Manager Intelligence, Dr John Moss said that this result shows the aligned resolve of Australian and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies in disrupting transnational organised crime syndicates across the globe.
“This is the result of an operation that has seen cooperation across international borders and law enforcement jurisdictions in order to pool intelligence and capabilities to combat organised crime. Combined, our capacity, networks and resources should give pause to those who might think of trafficking drugs in our region,” Dr Moss said.
Investigations are continuing and additional arrests are expected.
The Queensland JOCTF is a team of specialists targeting organised crime from the Australian Federal Police, Queensland Police Service (QPS), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), the Australian Border Force, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
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