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20 June 2019

Third man arrested over 2018 seizure of almost 600kg of cocaine

Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Federal Police, Queensland Police Service

An ongoing Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (QJOCTF) investigation has resulted in the arrest of a third man for his alleged involvement in a criminal endeavour to import almost 600 kilograms of cocaine into Australia on 31 July 2018.

The 43-year-old Byron Bay man was arrested by QJOCTF members earlier today (Thursday, 20 June 2019) at his home and charged with aiding or abetting the importation.

A 37-year-old man and a 54-year-old man were arrested on 31 July 2018 in a small water craft off the northern coast of NSW for their role in this criminal enterprise.

It will be alleged in court these two men were approached by authorities, before attempting to evade interception and jettisoning items into the sea. The items were retrieved from the sea and identified as containing just over 587 kilograms of cocaine. For more information on the 2018 arrests, click here.

Today’s arrest is the result of ongoing investigation and evidence collection over the past 11 months. The QJOCTF executed two search warrants today on a home and a business premises associated with the 43-year-old man in Byron Bay. Among the items seized from the man’s home was cash, a quantity of white powder believed to be an illicit substance and encrypted mobile phones.

The man’s home was also the subject of a search warrant as part of this investigation in September 2018.

It will be alleged in court that the Byron Bay man played a key role in arranging the importation and facilitating the payment for the boat used to collect the cocaine with money provided by the criminal syndicate.

He is expected to appear before Byron Bay Local Court this afternoon, where police will apply for his extradition to Queensland.

Australian Federal Police acting Detective Superintendent Melissa Northam said today’s arrest demonstrates the commitment of the QJOCTF to disrupt large-scale drug trafficking enterprises.

“The arrest in Byron Bay today highlights the professionalism and commitment our taskforce has in following these matters through and focusing on the syndicates involved, both in Australia and overseas,” she said.

“We are proud to have stopped 587 kilograms of cocaine from hitting Australian streets, and we remain determined to bring everyone involved in this plot to account.”

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker from the Drug and Serious Crime Group, Queensland Police Service, said partner agencies are committed to working together to disrupt serious and organised crime.

“We will leave no stone unturned to stop dangerous drugs impacting on the Australian community,” Detective Superintendent Wacker said.

ABF Commander Graeme Grosse said the successful investigation and latest arrest highlighted the excellent collaboration between all agencies working in the QJOCTF.

“The ABF is actively focused on protecting our borders and our joint-agency work to detect, deter and disrupt criminals from bringing illegal drugs into Australia is critical to ensuring our community is free from the harmful scourge of illegal drugs,” Commander Grosse said.

ACIC Queensland State Manager Charlie Carver said this has been a significantly complex and long running drug investigation.

“ACIC plays an important role by sharing intelligence with our partners in the QJOCTF to collaboratively identify and disrupt these attempted imports. This operation demonstrates the strong and committed working relationships between jurisdictions and partner agencies to target illicit drugs in our communities.”

The Byron Bay man was charged with aiding or abetting the importation of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). This charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

The QJOCTF 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).

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.

Note: Footage of today's arrest is available for download here. Historical footage of this operation is available here.


Last updated
20 June 2019