Two alleged senior members of a transnational crime syndicate linked to plots to import at least one tonne of methamphetamine into Australia have been arrested in Taiwan.
The AFP worked with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and international partners to identify and locate the Taiwanese nationals, after one of them came on the AFP radar during Operation Ironside.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Pryce Scanlan said the AFP had been working to identify one of the men after encrypted communications intercepted during Operation Ironside allegedly indicated he had coordinated more than 30 methamphetamine importations into Australia in 2020.
“Intelligence indicates he and his syndicate were attempting to import quantities of up to 100 kilograms at a time,” Assistant Commissioner Scanlan said. “We suspect they were operating long before we started monitoring them and were involved in multiple other drug trafficking plots targeting Australia.”
The AFP and ACIC launched Operation Greenhill to identify the criminal network and, earlier this year, allegedly found they were planning to import 30 kilograms of methamphetamine into Western Australia inside 3D printers.
The AFP and ACIC worked with international partners, including Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), to intercept the drugs in the United States before they reached Australia, and establish the suspected identity and location of the facilitator.
Australian authorities provided intelligence to the Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau to help locate the man in New Taipei City, where he was arrested in late July (2022).
Assistant Commissioner Scanlan said AFP investigators were told the 33-year-old was already the subject of an arrest warrant over a separate drug offence in Taiwan.
Further inquiries by Taiwanese police, supported by the AFP and ACIC, led to the identification and arrest of a second alleged syndicate member in early October (2022) in Taoyuan City.
That man, 36, was allegedly regarded as the right-hand-man of the 33-year-old in the criminal enterprise.
Both men have been charged with illegal transportation of category two narcotics under Article 4 of the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act (Ch), over the alleged plot to import 30kg of methamphetamine into Australia.
They are expected to face a potential term of life imprisonment in Taiwan if convicted.
Assistant Commissioner Scanlan said the AFP was also investigating the syndicate’s alleged links to some significant imports into Western Australia that had been foiled by the AFP and Australian Border Force.
He said the arrest of the two men highlighted the damage that law enforcement and intelligence agencies could inflict on transnational criminal networks by working together across borders.
“This organised crime group has caused significant harm to the Australian community for a number of years, as well as causing harm offshore,” he said.
“We allege this operation has taken out two senior members of a TSOC syndicate and disrupted their gateway to import illicit commodities into Australia, which is a significant win for the community.
“The operation has been particularly important for WA, considering the continued high demand for methamphetamine locally. “Methamphetamine is the most consumed illicit drug across Australia and it causes immense harm to users, families and communities.
“In 2020, on average, 10 people died in Australia each week from an amphetamine overdose, and in 2020 to 2021 about 34 people a day were hospitalised from methamphetamine use.
“Operation Greenhill highlights the continued benefits of Operation Ironside and reinforces the AFP’s commitment to ensuring all of the intelligence and information collected during the course of Ironside is investigated.
“Organised crime groups should not think they are out of reach of the AFP if they are offshore.
“The AFP has members in 33 countries around the world and we will continue to use our international networks and trusted partners to ensure criminals are brought to justice and do not profit at the expense of our communities.”
ACIC acting Executive Director Intelligence Operations Dash Sivakumaran said the ACIC would continue to work with the AFP and other partners – both in Australia and offshore - to prevent illicit drugs entering Australia.
“The ACIC is uniquely positioned to assist the Australian Federal Police and its international network to disrupt transnational criminal networks that are seeking to cause serious harm to the Australian community,” Mr Sivakumaran said.
“According to wastewater analysis, methylamphetamine poses the highest risk to the Australian community out of all illicit drugs, so collaborative law enforcement efforts are essential to combatting transnational crime syndicates, such as this one, from impacting on the community.”
Inquiries are ongoing by the AFP and partners across a number of countries into members of the syndicate and its criminal activities. The operation has identified a number of links across Australia, which are currently being investigated.
Thirty kilograms of methamphetamines could have been sold as 300,000 ‘street level’ deals for about $45 million, based on WA methamphetamine prices.
By ensuring the illicit drugs did not reach the streets, the AFP and partners have saved the community more than $6.8 million in drug-related harm, including associated crime, healthcare and loss of productivity.
Note to media:
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 www.counsellingonline.org.au.
- For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to www.turningpoint.org.au.
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