Five charged, 80kg of 'ice' and more than $1.7 million cash seized

NSW Police Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

Five men have been arrested after police seized more than $80 million of methylamphetamine (ice), firearms, and $1.7 million cash, during a multi-agency police operation spanning three states.

Earlier this year, Operation PHOBETOR – a joint organised crime targeting squad combining the NSW Police Force (NSWPF), Australian Federal Police (AFP), and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) – commenced investigations into a criminal syndicate suspected to be involved in the importation, storage, and supply of illicit drugs.

Detectives from the State Crime Command’s Drug and Firearms Squad subsequently established Strike Force Phobetor Spartan IV to investigate the Sydney-based activities of the syndicate.

As part of ongoing inquiries, officers arrested two men – aged 41 and 36 – at Petersham and in Sydney from 6pm on Wednesday (21 September 2022).

During subsequent searches of the men and a suitcase, police located and seized more than 16kg of methylamphetamine, and other items relevant to the investigation.

Both men were taken to Burwood Police Station.

Police subsequently executed eight search and crime scene warrants at addresses at Tempe, Kingsgrove, Waterloo, St Peters, and Petersham from midnight yesterday (Thursday 22 September 2022).

Investigators were assisted throughout the operation by officers attached to Public Order Riot Squad (PORS), Bass Hill Region Enforcement Squad (RES), Inner West Police Area Command, and other specialist units.

During the search of the Tempe property, police located a clandestine laboratory, $1.5 million cash, methylamphetamine, firearms, and equipment consistent with the manufacture and supply of prohibited drugs.

A 37-year-old man was arrested at the location and taken to Burwood Police Station.

At the Petersham property, police located and seized nine pallets of industrial plastic rolls, which were concealing more than 50kg of methylamphetamine.

Detectives also seized more than 100 litres of GBL, dedicated encrypted communication devices (DECDs), further amounts of methylamphetamine, documentation and other items.

All seized items will undergo forensic examination.

The 36-year-old man was subsequently charged import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug and supply prohibited drug more than large commercial quantity.

The 41-year-old man was charged with import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug and supply prohibited drug more than large commercial quantity, two counts use offensive weapon to prevent lawful detention and assault police officer in execution of duty.

Both men were refused bail and appeared at Parramatta Bail Court yesterday, where they were formally refused bail to appear at Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday 15 November 2022.

The 37-year-old man was charged with owner or occupier knowingly allow use as drug premises, and two counts of supply prohibited drug more than indictable amount.

He was refused bail and appeared at Parramatta Bail Court yesterday, where he was formally refused bail to appear at Newtown Local Court on Thursday 29 September 2022.

Additional search warrants were subsequently executed in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, and in Brisbane, Queensland, with the assistance of the AFP and Queensland Police Service (QPS) across the past two days.

During searches of an industrial unit and two serviced apartments in the Perth suburbs of Malaga and Innaloo, respectively, AFP investigators located and seized a further 7kg of methamphetamine, more than $250,000 in cash, watches and jewellery valued at about $150,000 and a small amount of cocaine.

Two men – aged 32 and 34 – were arrested at the Malaga address and have since been charged with one count each of trafficking a commercial quantity of methamphetamine and dealing in the proceeds of crime.

They were refused bail to appear before the Perth Magistrates Court this morning.

Investigations continue.

Anyone with information that may assist Operation PHOBETOR investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.