Police and border protection agencies have seized approximately 300 kilograms of cocaine imported into Melbourne via air cargo in pallets of cocoa powder.
Two Mexican men (aged 33 and 34) are scheduled to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court today in relation to the importation of the drugs, which have a street value of around $105 million.
Earlier this month, the 34-year-old Mexican man arrived at Melbourne International Airport on a flight from Los Angeles. The man was subject to an examination by Australian Border Force officers, who detected a small quantity of cocaine in the man’s possession.
The man was detained and an investigation was initiated by the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF). The JOCTF involves officers from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF), Victoria Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).
Police enquiries led to the seizure of a consignment labelled as coffee and cocoa powder from a business premises in Altona, Victoria. Allegedly concealed within the consignment was approximately 300kgs of cocaine. Further forensic testing will be conducted to determine the exact weight and purity of the drugs.
The investigation culminated with search warrants conducted yesterday at residential premises in Port Melbourne and Balaclava resulting in the arrest of two Mexican males.
The 34-year-old Mexican man, who was previously detained, was formally arrested at the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre. The 33 year-old was arrested at the Port Melbourne premises.
Both men have been charged with the importation a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely cocaine, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code 1996 (Cth).
The 33-year-old has also been charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely cocaine, contrary to section 11.1 of the Criminal Code 1996 (Cth).
The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
AFP Commander John Beveridge in Melbourne said the investigation required significant cooperation between domestic and international partners.
“Crime today is connected at a local, national, and international level, and one of the AFP’s greatest assets is its robust relationships with partners at home and overseas,” Commander Beveridge said.
“During this investigation, we used the AFP International Network and worked closely with officers at the newly opened AFP post in Mexico. We were able to obtain intelligence on this organised criminal syndicate from the source and trace their activities across the globe.”
ABF Acting Regional Commander Victoria, Rod Winchester, said this was a satisfying result for the ABF and its partners.
“This is why ABF officers turn up to work each day – to play their part in stopping dangerous people, peddling dangerous drugs, from entering our country and ruining Australian lives,” he said.
“These syndicates will continue to target Australia because, sadly, Australians are still prepared to pay a very high price for drugs including cocaine – but we aren’t making it easy for them.
“It goes to show the breadth of law enforcement these cartels are up against when they target Australia. Before the border, at the border and after the border; we are watching, we know what they are up to and, when the time is right, we will strike.”
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said this was a great result for the Victorian community and by working with our partner agencies we have been able to stop this drug hitting our streets.
“Drugs are not harmless, they are not safe, and they have had deadly consequences for some people,” Assistant Commissioner Fontana said.
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Victorian State Manager Jason Halls said working with partners was essential to disrupt and deter transnational criminal enterprises.
“This operation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement agencies in Australia and internationally sharing intelligence to effectively target organised crime and respond to the threat and harm caused by these illicit activities.”