Adelaide man charged over alleged $20m cocaine import plot

A 46-year-old man is expected to face Adelaide Magistrate’s Court today (9 September) after being charged over an alleged plot to import 20 kilograms of cocaine – with an estimated street value of $20 million – into South Australia from Greece.

The man was arrested yesterday (8 September) after Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (ABF) officers executed search warrants at two inner-city Adelaide properties.

A joint agency investigation was launched last week (31 August) after ABF officers in South Australia selected an air cargo consignment labelled as ‘welding’ for examination.

A wooden crate containing two welding machines was X-rayed, with anomalies revealed in both.

ABF officers removed a panel from one piece of machinery and found an electronic safe.

Inside the safe was nine rectangular packages which allegedly contained a white powder, with tests returning a presumptive positive result to cocaine.

AFP officers were called in and dismantled the second welder, where they found another safe with nine similar packages stored inside.

Forensic tests by the AFP have confirmed the 18 seized packages contain a total of approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine.

This equates to about 20,000 ‘street level’ deals of cocaine, which police say can currently be sold for about $5 million wholesale, and which has an approximate ‘street value’ of $20 million.

Police will allege the 46-year-old Adelaide man had organised the consignment and arranged for it to be delivered to his former workplace, without the knowledge of the business owners.

It is also alleged he made inquiries to the freight company about when the consignment would be available.

The man was arrested at his suburban Adelaide home yesterday, where police seized electronic devices and documentation allegedly connected to the consignment.

Police have charged him with importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth).

This offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Gavin Stone said COVID-19 border restrictions are not stopping crime syndicates from trying to flout the law and profit from smuggling illicit drugs into Australia.

“Operations like this send a strong message that no matter how sophisticated or opportunistic these criminal ventures are, or what methods they use, the AFP and our partners are one step ahead,” Detective Acting Superintendent Stone said.

“We will outsmart you. Australian law enforcement are more united than ever to protect the community by stopping harmful drugs from reaching our streets and preventing criminals profiting from their illegal activities.”

ABF Chief Superintendent in SA, Brett Liebich, said supply chain integrity was a key priority for the ABF.

“Air cargo volumes have increased during the pandemic but so has our capacity to screen inbound consignments,” Chief Superintendent Liebich said.

“We have surged officers to the air and sea cargo streams to protect the border.

“And our officers are alert to the many creative ways criminals attempt to import their illicit cargoes.

“This is another example of the strong working relationship between the ABF and AFP in keeping the community safe from harmful drugs.”

Investigations are ongoing into who sent the drugs from Greece.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.

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