NSW man charged over 200kg meth importation into Melbourne

Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force

A 33-year-old man from New South Wales has been charged over the April 2019 seizure of 200 kilograms of methamphetamine imported into Melbourne from Canada, after an extensive multi-agency investigation.

Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) investigators arrested the man at his home on the NSW Central Coast last Wednesday (25 November 2020) and have charged him with organising the drug importation, which had an estimated street value of $150 million.

Police will allege the man headed a syndicate that ‘piggybacked’ off a legitimate Melbourne-based whitegoods company in a bid to avoid law enforcement scrutiny of the illicit air cargo consignment.

Australian Border Force (ABF) officers examined the consignment when it arrived in Melbourne in 2019 and found that the black plastic-wrapped cardboard boxes contained no whitegoods, only bags of high purity methamphetamine.

Victorian JOCTF, which comprises the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Victoria Police (VicPol), ABF, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), launched Operation Caerus-Braint in April 2019.

The investigation uncovered that a criminal syndicate based on the NSW Central Coast was allegedly responsible for the importation. Authorities suspect the group is also responsible for other smaller air cargo and mail consignments of methamphetamine from multiple countries, including Germany and Canada, which have been seized by authorities. 

Police believe the Melbourne whitegoods company was not aware that its name was being used and is not involved in the illicit importations.

The 33-year-old, allegedly linked to the NSW Central Coast crime syndicate during the investigation, was charged after Victorian JOCTF investigators executed a search warrant at his Woongarrah home last Wednesday morning.

Police seized more than $100,000 in cash, a large number of mobile telephone devices and electronic devices, a large amount of false identification material linked to the importations, a money counting machine and a quantity of steroids.

It was one of nine search warrants executed at homes and storage facilities in Sydney and the Central Coast last week (25 and 26 November 2020) as part of the investigation.

Victorian JOCTF was assisted by New South Wales Police Force during the operational activity.

In October 2020, NSW Police Force seized more than $1.5 million from a Sydney residence allegedly used as a ‘safe house’ by the syndicate as a result of investigations conducted by the Victorian JOCTF.

The 33-year-old man faced Wyong Court on 25 November 2020 for importing commercial quantities of methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

He is expected back in court on 19 January 2021 and faces a potential maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted. 

Investigations are ongoing into the source of the 200 kilograms of methamphetamine seized and anyone else involved.

Police expect further arrests as part of the investigation into this alleged syndicate.

Commander of Investigations, AFP Southern Command, Commander Todd Hunter, said the seizure of 200 kilograms of methamphetamine had prevented a potential two million ‘street deals’ from reaching the community.

“Methamphetamine causes immense harm to users and the wider community – it contributes to violence, psychological damage and other crimes,” Commander Hunter said.

“While sadly there is strong demand for this drug, the AFP and our partners are working tirelessly to make Australia a hostile environment for criminals trying to feed that demand, by seizing their destructive products and stripping criminal syndicates of their illegal profits.  We are committed to reducing the harm these criminals wreak on our community through their greed and peddling of misery.”

Victoria Police Organised Crime Detective Superintendent Jacqueline Curran said the successful interception of 200kg of methamphetamine bound for Victorian streets was a significant victory in the continuing fight against the drugs causing the most harm within our community.

“Drugs such as ice continue to be a key driver for a number of serious and at times, life-altering crimes within the Victorian community, including drug driving, drug-fuelled assaults, and drug-fuelled family violence.”

“Sadly, we know ice use is prevalent within our community, especially throughout regional Victoria, which remains a significant concern for police.”

“Victoria Police will continue to tirelessly work alongside our partners to investigate and disrupt drug traffickers who are preying on the vulnerable and trading on their misery for their own financial gain.”

ABF Commander Port Operations South, Craig Palmer, said this operation is another example of how the ABF and its law enforcement partners work together to keep dangerous drugs off Australian streets. 

“Operation Caerus-Braint highlights yet again how effectively Commonwealth and State law enforcement agencies are collaborating to protect the Australian community from harmful illicit drugs, and, just as importantly, to hold criminals to account,” Commander Palmer said.

 “No matter how criminals attempt to conceal and move their drugs, ABF officers have the skills, technology and the resources to find the substances and track down the people who are attempting to bring them in.”