Joint agency investigation uncovers conspiracy to import more than $200 million of illicit drugs from the Americas

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, New South Wales Police Force

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, New South Wales Police Force

Five Australians have been charged following a joint-agency investigation into an international drug importation syndicate.

In March 2017, detectives from the NSW Police Force’s Organised Crime Squad established Strike Force Rowena to investigate the importation of methylamphetamine and cocaine to Sydney.

Investigators have been working closely with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

As a result of their joint inquiries, and with the assistance of the Mexican Federal Police, officers intercepted 101kg of methylamphetamine in Mexico on Thursday 14 September 2017.

Police will allege in court the drugs, which have an estimated potential street value of more than $50 million, were destined for Australia.

Further investigation revealed an alleged conspiracy to import 500kg of cocaine, which has an estimated potential street value of $150 million, from Columbia to Sydney, for further distribution across Australia.

Following further inquiries, a controlled operation was conducted, and investigators arrested two men – aged 46 and 48 – at a car park on Market Street, Darling Harbour, just before 11am yesterday (Thursday 2 November 2017).

The pair was taken to Day Street Police Station and charged with attempt to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drug and supply large commercial of a prohibited drug.

Shortly after, strike force investigators arrested a 40-year-old man at a home at Epping.

At the same time, a 41-year-old man was arrested by South Australia Police outside a home at Collinswood, South Australia.

Both men were charged with two counts conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, with the Epping man also charged with deal proceeds of crime.

The NSW men were refused bail to appear at Central Local Court later today (Friday 3 November 2017).

The SA man was refused bail to appear at Adelaide Magistrates court later today. Strike force investigators will travel to Adelaide to seek the man’s extradition to NSW in coming days.

Following the arrests, investigators executed search warrants at a home at Epping and hotel rooms at Darling Harbour and, with the assistance of South Australia Police, executed five search warrants in South Australia, including homes at Collinswood, Mawson Lakes, Seacombe Gardens, and Plympton Park, and a business at Kensington Gardens.

Strike Force Rowena investigators seized more than $50,000 cash, designer watches, gold and silver bullion, numerous documents, and mobile telephones.

A 36-year-old woman was arrested by South Australia Police after locating methylamphetamine at the Plympton Park home.

She was charged with trafficking a controlled drug and granted bail to appear at Adelaide Magistrates Court on Wednesday 13 December 2017.

Investigations are continuing in NSW and internationally.

NSW Police Force’s Organised Crime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, said the investigation is indicative of the future of how law enforcement targets organised crime.

“The Organised Crime Squad has developed strong relationships with law enforcement and intelligence agencies at home and abroad, which allows us to target drugs and other commodities at the source,” Det Supt Cook said.

“By working together, we can cut deep into the profits of organised criminal activity, and prevent these poisons from even reaching our borders.”

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission NSW State Manager, Warren Gray, said this interception demonstrates the importance of international law enforcement and intelligence agencies working together to effectively target transnational criminal enterprises.

“The trust that is built between nations through joint operational activity is paramount to the successful fight against organised crime, and we are committed to working with our domestic and international partners to connect, discover, understand and respond to the threat and harm caused by these illicit activities,” Mr Gray said.

The United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration Sydney Resident Agent-in-Charge, Eric W. Baldus, said, “The seizure of more than 100kg of methamphetamine is a testament to the strong relationships we enjoy with our Australian law-enforcement partners.

“This collaborative approach has repeatedly proven to be a catalyst for success when combating today’s sophisticated transnational drug trafficking organizations.”

Vision of the police operation is available via Hightail:

Police are urging anyone with information in relation to the importation or trafficking of illicit drugs to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page:

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