Two men arrested over 98kg meth seizure in Melbourne

This is a joint media release between the AFP, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and Department of Home Affairs

Two men with alleged links to Afghani organised crime have been charged over an alleged attempt to smuggle 98kg of methamphetamine, concealed in wheat thresher machines, into Australia.

The Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) arrested a Tullamarine man, 30, on 20 December, 2023 and a Croydon Hills man, 34, the following day, as a result of an investigation which started after a referral from the Dubai Police Anti-Narcotics Team about a suspected drug importation attempt.

The AFP also received intelligence and ongoing assistance from the Service for Combating Organized Crime (SBPOK) of the Criminal Investigation Directorate of the Republic of Serbia. The importation is allegedly linked to Afghani organised crime and international inquiries are ongoing.

The Dubai Police Anti-Narcotics Team detected the methamphetamine allegedly concealed in a consignment of farm machinery on a ship bound for Melbourne in October, 2023.

Following the referral, the consignment was intercepted by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers when the ship arrived in Melbourne in late November.

About 98kg of methamphetamine was allegedly found inside 12 drive shafts. Forensic examinations are ongoing to determine the purity of the seized drugs.

JOCTF investigators delivered the consignment without the illicit drugs to Oakleigh South, where the farming equipment was allegedly unloaded on the side of a road.

It will be alleged the Tullamarine man subsequently oversaw the movement of the wheat thresher machines to a property in Dewhurst on 20 December. It will be alleged the Croydon Hills man directed the activities of the Tullamarine man.

Police executed search warrants at the Dewhurst property and a residence in Tullamarine where they seized items consistent with a suspected clandestine laboratory.

The 30-year-old man appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 21 December, 2023 charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

The 34-year-old man appeared in the same court on December 22, 2023 charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

Both offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

The men are next expected to appear before Melbourne Magistrates Court on 13 March, 2024.

AFP Detective Superintendent Jason McArthur said that amount of methamphetamine could have been sold as about 980,000 individual street deals and had an estimated street value of $88 million.

“The amount of harm 98kg of methamphetamine could have caused to the community if it had not been intercepted by law enforcement would have been immense,” Det-Supt McArthur said.

“On average, close to 12,000 Australians are hospitalised from methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin use every 12 months.*

“The seizure demonstrates the importance of collaboration between law enforcement partners. The AFP works tirelessly with domestic and international law enforcement partners to disrupt attempts by organised crime to import large quantities of illicit drugs into Australia and profit at the expense of the community.

“Preventing a significant amount of methamphetamine from hitting Melbourne’s streets, just days before Christmas, has saved many families from the grief and heartbreak caused by illicit drugs.”

Victoria Police Detective Acting Superintendent Anthony Vella, from the Organised Crime Division, said: “drug use, particularly ice use, contributes to high levels of harm in our community through drug driving, drug-fuelled assaults, drug-fuelled family violence and heightened risk-taking – the effects of which are often devastating and tragic”.

“The prevalence of these illicit substances within our society and the impact they have on human behaviour translates into road trauma, family violence, homicides, shootings and other violent offending intrinsically linked to the illicit drug trade,” Det-A/Supt Vella said.

“Victoria Police will continue to work in collaboration with our law enforcement partners on investigations such as this. Our message to those involved in the manufacture and trafficking of illicit drugs is clear: we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement and intelligence partners to target you, and to dismantle your operations.”

ABF Acting Superintendent Maritime Operations Victoria/Tasmania, Sonia Miteva, said methamphetamine shipments were being seized at Australia’s border at significant levels, and the ABF worked in close collaboration with partner agencies to combat this criminal behavior.

“ABF officers are highly vigilant to the methods organised crime groups use to try to illegally import illicit drugs into the country,” Superintendent Miteva said.

“The ABF is committed to protecting the community from dangerous drugs and continues to work closely with our law enforcement partners to stop the tide of methamphetamine coming into Australia.

“This significant seizure demonstrates that strong partnerships can stop organised crime syndicates in their tracks, by making the border a hostile operating environment for those who seek to do the community harm.”

*Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report

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 counsellingonline.org.au.
  • For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to turningpoint.org.au.

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