A 38-year-old man has been sentenced to 14 years and three months in jail by the Melbourne County Court for his role in a failed plot to import 300 kilograms of cocaine into Melbourne in a shipment of cocoa powder.
The Mexican national is the second man to be jailed over the illicit consignment, which had the potential to be broken down into 300,000 individual street deals, with an estimated street value of approximately $105 million.
The joint agency investigation led by the Australian Federal Police, was sparked in November 2017, when the man arrived in Melbourne on a flight from Los Angeles on a tourist visa and was intercepted by Australian Border Force officers responding to an indication from a detector dog. A small quantity of cocaine was subsequently located in his possession.
The 38-year-old male was questioned about the small amount and his phones were analysed and intelligence gathered from that analysis led investigators eventually to the consignment.
The intelligence from the man’s phone later lead to an investigation by the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF).
The JOCTF involves officers from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF), Victoria Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).
Police enquiries resulted in the discovery and seizure of the drugs from a business premises in Altona, Victoria. The cocaine was found concealed in a consignment labelled as coffee and cocoa power.
Police then searched residential premises in Port Melbourne and Balaclava, resulting in the 38-year-old man and another Mexican national being charged over the importation. Both men entered guilty pleas in court.
The 38-year-old man was sentenced on 17 August 2021 to 14 years and three months imprisonment for two offences – importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs and possessing border controlled drugs reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported. He has been ordered to serve a non-parole period of nine years and six months.
The other man is serving an 18-year jail sentence, with a non-parole period of 12 years, for importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs.
Australian Federal Police Detective Acting Inspector Mark McKiernan from the JOCTF said this operation highlighted the collaborative work of law enforcement to ensure a large quantity of drugs didn’t make it to the community and prosecute those involved in the harmful trade.
“We will continue to work with our partners to seize drugs before they impact Australia’s towns, cities and hospitals,” he said.
“We want to send a strong message to drug syndicates that we will continue to attack their supply chains on all fronts, reduce their ability to profit from their crimes, and work to prevent their heinous products from causing harm to our community.”
ABF Commander Craig Palmer noted how the investigation and outcome demonstrated the suite of capabilities of the ABF and its critical role at border.
“The range of techniques deployed at the border in this case include intelligence gathering, network analysis, and the strategic use of our highly trained detector dogs,” Commander Palmer said.
“The insight to approach the passenger in the first instance, the effectiveness of the ABF’s detector dog capability, and the immediate intelligence work undertaken by the ABF, was key to enabling our law enforcement partners to locate the consignment of drugs.
“These arrests are a reminder of the full range of capabilities Australian law enforcement agencies deploy to target criminals at the border and keep Australia safe.”
Victoria Police Detective Inspector Justin Cornford said the successful interception of 300kg of cocaine bound for Victorian streets was a significant victory in the continuing fight against the drugs causing the most harm within the community.
“We’ve made no secret of the fact that Victoria Police is determined to make Victoria a hostile place for organised crime and to limit the harm caused to our community through the trafficking of drugs. This result really highlights the pursuit of those offenders by all the agencies involved in this operation,” he said.
“We have zero tolerance for drug trafficking and will continue to work tirelessly to investigate and disrupt drug traffickers who are preying on the vulnerable and trading on their misery for their own financial gain.”
Note to media:
Images of this operation are available to be downloaded from the following link: https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/4go3h7x6t5
Footage supplied by ABF can be viewed and downloaded:
DDP Jeff and Phoenix Line walk and sits
DDP Jeff and Phoenix Line walk 2
DDP Jeff and Phoenix Line walk 3
DDP Jeff and Phoenix Play
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 counsellingonline.org.au.
- For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to turningpoint.org.au.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297