Joint Operation Astatine spurs further arrests in Europe

Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), New South Wales Crime Commission, New South Wales Police Force

Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), New South Wales Crime Commission, New South Wales Police Force

A joint agency investigation - responsible for dismantling an alleged global crime syndicate last year - has led to further arrests by international partners, after Dutch authorities charged two men believed to be involved in supplying drugs to the syndicate.

Operation Astatine began in early 2016, to investigate the alleged activities of a NSW-based drug-trafficking and tobacco-smuggling network.

In August 2017, nine people were arrested in Australia and one in Dubai for their alleged roles in conspiring to import around 200 kilograms of MDMA, plus illegal tobacco, via sea cargo to Australia.

During the investigation, the NSW Joint Organised Crime Group (JOCG) identified the source of the MDMA as the Netherlands.

The NSW JOCG – through Australian Federal Police international liaison officers - provided this information to the National Police of the Netherlands (NPN). The NPN then commenced their own standalone investigation to track the European supply chain involved in the planned MDMA importation.

Late last week, the NPN arrested two Dutch nationals - a 36-year-old man and a 37-year-old man for their alleged roles in supplying 197kg of MDMA to the Australian syndicate involved in Operation Astatine.

AFP acting Manager Organised Crime, acting Commander Krissy Barrett, congratulated Dutch authorities for their recent success, and thanked them for their assistance throughout the Australian investigation.

“This is just one example of our strategy to attack these high-end criminal networks and cripple all elements of their supply chain,” acting Commander Barrett said.

“Our impact is strongest when action is taken not only in Australia, but also with our international partners on a global level, to sever the ties of these crime networks at the source.”

NSWPF Organised Crime Squad Commander, Detective Acting Superintendent Damien Beaufils, said strong relationships and international cooperation in law enforcement and intelligence is now more important than ever.

“Given the transnational nature of organised crime, the only way we can effectively target their illicit activities is through a collaborative international approach,” Detective Acting Superintendent Beaufils said.

“We regularly share information with our law enforcement partners across the globe, which enables us to target any crime in any location that may impact on the people of NSW.”

Australia Border Force Commander Investigations Graeme Grosse said working together with domestic and international partners had again led to a great result.

“The ABF would like to commend the Dutch authorities for their continued work dismantling this particular international syndicate and bringing those involved before the courts.” Commander Grosse said.

AUSTRAC acting National Manager Intelligence Michael Tink said that Operation Astatine was a great example of intelligence agencies working with law enforcement to fight international drug trafficking.

“AUSTRAC’s role in this operation was to follow the money. We utilised our intelligence resources to identify new links and associations of syndicate members to support our law enforcement partners with the investigation,” Mr Tink said.

The NSW JOCG is a multi-agency taskforce comprising members from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), NSW Police Force (NSWPF), Australian Border Force (ABF), Department of Home Affairs (DHA), NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).