Operation Vitreus

Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Federal Police, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Transactions and Reporting Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), New South Wales Police Force, New Zealand Police, Northern Territory Police, Queensland Police Service, South Australia Police, Tasmania Police, Victoria Police, Western Australia Police

A national co-ordinated policing campaign focused on detecting drugs being distributed via the Australian postal service was today detailed in Adelaide.

Operation Vitreus was co-ordinated by the National Methylamphetamine Strategy Group, which is currently lead by SA Police (SAPOL), but involved all State and Territory police agencies, working in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force (ABF), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC.

With tens of thousands of mail items scanned throughout the country at state and international mail exchanges over two days, authorities located an alarming array of illicit substances.

The largest seizures were of methylamphetamine, cannabis, and cocaine however a total of 62 illicit drugs or illegally obtained prescription medications were seized by police.

Speaking today on behalf of the National Serious Organised Crime Coordination Committee, SAPOL Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval said people who used the postal service to transport drugs – either internationally, interstate or locally – could face very serious charges of trafficking or importation.

“This operation involved significant law enforcement co-operation and should serve as a warning to criminals who try to import or distribute drugs even in small amounts via the mail,” he said.

“This operation is just one of many strategies at play nationally as law enforcement agencies respond to the growing threat of abuse of illicit drugs, particularly methylamphetamine.

“Police agencies will continue to work together on enforcement, intelligence collection and education.

“This should serve as a warning to people who source illicit substances through mediums such as the internet and have them posted to Australia and also to those who may be persuaded to receive post on behalf of other people.  

“This was a disturbing snapshot of illegal drugs being trafficked through the post and we will continue to target offenders who seek to distribute drugs in this way.”

Australian Federal Police State Manager South Australia, Commander Peter Sykora, emphasised that parcel post interceptions could add up to significant drug seizures.

“Though the packages being intercepted may appear to be only small amounts of illicit substances, in totality these can equate to large quantities of drugs being seized and a significant disruption to criminal networks,” Commander Sykora said.

ABF Acting Assistant Commissioner, Strategic Border Command, James Watson said the operation had been a good opportunity for the ABF to work closely with state, territory and federal counterparts.

“The ABF has a proven track record of using various technologies to detect sophisticated concealment techniques, and we are pleased to be able to share our expertise in using x-ray, trace detection and detector dogs,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Watson said.

“Every detection and every seizure we make, even in domestic operations like this, contributes to building our intelligence database, helping us to better target future attempts to smuggle illegal drugs into Australia.”

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s Operation Vitreus representative, Richard Grant, said these results show the threat and harm posed by illicit drugs to the Australian community is ever-growing.

“We know that serious and organised criminals, as well as other motivated individuals, use various importation streams to circulate illicit drugs.

“The importation, manufacture, cultivation and distribution of illicit drugs and related precursors in Australia remain a focal point of Government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and we must continue working collaboratively to combat both the supply and demand for illicit drugs in Australia,” Mr Grant said.

Angela Jamieson, acting Deputy CEO of Operations for Australia’s financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC, said that her agency maintains a close working relationship with law enforcement partners to protect the Australian community.    

“AUSTRAC’s intelligence and analysis supports the investigative work of our law enforcement partners and assists them in identifying the main offenders, tracking down other entities of interest and following the money trail associated with criminal activities.”

Packages were examined by mobile x-ray units to identify and locate prohibited drugs, with police then conducting follow up inquiries in the days following.

The operation was conducted at different times in different states over the last month and will be an ongoing policing strategy to detect postal drug shipments of any weight.

Arrests have been made by each commonwealth, State and Territory agency, with some investigations ongoing and further charges likely to be laid.

MAJOR RESULTS (total weights):

  • Methylamphetamine 40.6kg
  • Cannabis 25.3kg
  • Cocaine 13.5kg
  • Heroin 2.2kg
  • MDMA (Ecstasy)  855g
  • Steroids 507g

Additional Seizures:

  • Cash $61,150
  • A (dead) Scorpion
  • Two spiders
  • Various liquids, tablets and capsules still to be identified

Numbers of drug seizures per state

  • ACT - 29
  • NSW - 21
  • NT - 89
  • QLD - 381
  • SA - 35
  • TAS - 23
  • VIC - 312
  • WA - 183