Police have executed 20 warrants across metropolitan Melbourne today as part of a Joint Organised Crime Task Force (JOCTF) investigation that has led to Victoria's largest ever heroin seizure.
The warrants were executed from 7am at residential and commercial properties in Campbellfield (8), Reservoir (2), Coolaroo (2), Greenvale, Wollert, Craigieburn, Broadmeadows, Pascoe Vale South, Melbourne, Tullamarine and Fawkner.
Members of Victoria Police, including detectives from Crime Command, North West Metro Crime Squad, Dog Squad and the Public Order Response Team, Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (ABF), along with intelligence from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, were all involved in today's operational activity.
Three people have been arrested including a 33-year-old Fawkner man, a 41-year-old Campbellfield man and a 39-year-old Greenvale woman.
All three will be interviewed by police.
A firearm, cash, diamonds, computer equipment, and drugs including MDMA, cannabis and tobacco have been seized from the addresses.
Today's warrants form part of an 18-month investigation by the JOCTF into the trafficking of illicit drugs and tobacco linked to a Middle Eastern Organised Crime Group syndicate.
In January this year, police seized 300kg heroin with a street value of approximately $60M, which is Victoria's largest ever heroin seizure.
It's alleged the drugs were hidden inside an air cargo consignment, which had been detected by ABF officers upon its arrival in Melbourne from Malaysia on 8 January.
A number of warrants were subsequently executed, including at a business premises in Campbellfield.
On 16 April this year, WA Police arrested a 35-year-old man and a 42-year-old woman near Kellerberrin, while a 45-year-old man was arrested the following day in Coolbellup.
Police seized just over 33kg of methylamphetamines and all three were subsequently charged with a range of drug offences.
Those arrests are alleged to be connected to the syndicate investigated by the JOCTF.
The investigation remains ongoing.
Commander Mick Frewen, Victoria Police Crime Command, said the operation highlights the success of joint investigations.
"As this investigation shows, we are often dealing with organised crime syndicates that have immense reach both nationally and internationally," he said.
"They are essentially trafficking immense harm into Victoria and profiting off our community's misery, and they have absolutely no qualms doing this.
"Our police see the day to day impacts of this, so to be able to target and dismantle a syndicate such as this is incredibly satisfying for all involved.
"The fact that they have been able to operate at this level over the past 18 months also shows that Covid-19 has had very little impact on the drug trade or reduced it in any way.
"Victoria Police will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who bring that harm to our state are held to account, and that those serious and organised crime groups involved in the trafficking of illicit drugs are strongly and deliberately targeted."
AFP acting Assistant Commissioner Krissy Barrett said the persistent work of the JOCTF has led to this arrest and should serve as a serious warning to criminals who attempt to target our country.
"We've made no secret of the fact that the AFP is determined to make Australia a hostile place for organised crime, especially those engaged in the manufacture and importation of drugs," she said.
"This result highlights the commitment of all the agencies involved in pursuing offenders seeking to profit at the expense of our communities.
"The Australian Federal Police and its commonwealth and state law enforcement partners are dedicated to pursuing offenders and bringing them to account for their illegal acts. To be clear – if you commit an offence, there is nowhere to hide, we will track you down.
ABF Commander James Watson outlined the ABF's role in disrupting the supply chains of organised crime groups.
"These arrests demonstrate the technical expertise of dedicated ABF officers, and the suite of capabilities we deploy to target criminals," he said.
"ABF officers made the initial detection, stopping this massive haul of heroin from entering our community, and played a critical role in the investigation which lead to the arrests today.
"ABF's intelligence and investigation capabilities, in partnership with law enforcement agencies, work to keep our community safe and break the business models of organised crime targeting Australia."
The JOCTF is comprised of Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Department of Home Affairs.
Anyone with information about illicit drug activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a confidential report via the Crimestoppers website.
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.
For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to the Turning Point website.
Victoria Police Media: (03) 9247 5205
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297
ABF Media: (02) 6264 2244