Two people have been arrested after an investigation into an organised crime syndicate allegedly importing and distributing tens of millions of dollars of illicit drugs into Melbourne and operating a drug ‘safe house’.
The Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) - comprising officers from the AFP, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force, Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission - launched its investigation into the syndicate following the identification of an elaborate criminal network suspected of being involved in importing, storing and distributing large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine. A Windsor man, age 42, was identified as a key member of the syndicate.
On 24 August 2022, police tracked a truck travelling between Melbourne and Sydney containing frozen chicken products. The vehicle was stopped by police, with an inspection finding more than 120 kilograms of cocaine concealed in the cargo.
The drugs were seized by investigators and the driver, 23, was arrested and charged with trafficking in a large commercial quantity of cocaine, which attracts a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
On 19 October 2022, police seized a further 50 kilograms of cocaine located in the north-west Melbourne suburb of Cairnlea. Investigators identified a potential ‘drug safe house’ the syndicate was allegedly using to store drugs.
As part of the resolution action, a search warrant was executed on the suspected ‘drug safe house’ where police seized an estimated 285 kilograms of methamphetamine and 15 kilograms of cocaine.
Yesterday afternoon, 24 October 2022, police executed a number of search warrants in Windsor, Southbank and Keysborough, resulting in the arrest of a Windsor man, 42, and seizure of evidence allegedly linking the syndicate to the distribution of the almost half a tonne of methamphetamine and cocaine.
The Windsor man was subsequently charged with trafficking a large commercial quantity of methamphetamine and cocaine, which attracts a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Victoria Police Acting Commander Paul O’Halloran said these drugs had the potential to cause immense harm to the Victorian community.
“The two people arrested for this offending are involved in an organised crime syndicate that has brought considerable harm to the Victorian community,” he said.
“However it’s not only about the drugs – the money they bring into these syndicates also helps facilitate a myriad of other serious and violent offending. Time and time again we see the impact illicit drugs have at all levels, whether that’s assaults, burglaries, drug driving, right through to the health impacts.
“We are sending a strong and clear message today to organised crime. We will not stop. We will target you. We will disrupt the syndicates responsible for these imports.
“Alongside our law enforcement partners, Victoria Police will continue to make it as difficult as possible for these syndicates to bring harm to Victoria.”
AFP Commander Raegan Stewart praised the diligent work of JOCTF investigators, and said the matter demonstrated how drug smugglers used any product and method to move their insidious products around Australia.
“These are significant seizures taken from a syndicate we will allege was experienced, well-resourced and proficient in their illegal trade – yet this operation shows how we could get one step ahead of them,” Commander Stewart said.
“The AFP and its law enforcement partners domestically and internationally are committed to protecting Australians from harmful, illicit drug imports and unleashing maximum damage on the criminal environment.”
“Investigations into the criminal syndicate involved remain ongoing. We are conducting enquiries with law enforcement agencies overseas and in Australia, and urge anyone with any information to please come forward before we knock on your door.”
Australia’s law enforcement agencies need the community’s ongoing assistance to minimise the harm caused by drugs, and urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or to submit at confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
Note to media:
Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.
- For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
- Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online at www.counsellingonline.org.au.
- For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to www.turningpoint.org.au.