Eight-year investigation into $150 million drug importation culminates with extraditions from Dubai

In another achievement of the fruitful cooperation between international law enforcement agencies, namely the NSW Police Force, Australian Federal Police, and Dubai Police, two fugitives have been extradited from Dubai, marking the resolution of an eight-year investigation into a transnational criminal syndicate involved in the importation of almost 3 tonnes of prohibited drugs, with an estimated potential street value of $150 million.

In December 2013, detectives from the State Crime Command’s Organised Crime Squad, together with the NSW Crime Commission, established Strike Force Millstream to investigate the large-scale supply of prohibited drugs – mainly MDMA and methylamphetamine (ice) – in NSW.

During the course of the investigation, detectives uncovered a significant transnational drug importation and money laundering operation, as well as other organised criminal activity.

So far, 28 people have been arrested and charged for their roles in the syndicate.

Four remain before the courts, while a further two men – aged 34 and 37 – are subject to arrest warrants and were apprehended in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in June last year.

Since that time, the NSW Police Force has been working with international law enforcement and Commonwealth agencies to seek the extradition of the men – now aged 36 and 38 – to Australia.

Officers attached to Strike Force Millstream recently travelled to Dubai as a part of formal extradition proceedings.

The two men have since been transferred into the custody of the NSW Police Force and escorted by detectives on a flight from Dubai, which landed at Sydney International Airport about 10.30pm yesterday (Wednesday 15 September 2021).

After being processed by Australian Border Force (ABF), the pair were transported by the Public Order Riot Squad (PORS) to the Sydney Police Centre, where the outstanding warrants were executed.

Both men were charged with three counts of conspiracy to import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug, conspiracy to traffic in commercial quantity of controlled drug, and conspiracy to deal in proceeds of crime, money/property (greater than $1 million).

The maximum penalty for the drug-related offences is life imprisonment, while the money laundering offence carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.

Police will allege in court that the men facilitated the importation of 2.8 tonnes of prohibited drugs on numerous occasions between 2013 and 2014.

The total estimated potential street value of the drugs is more than $150 million.

The men have been refused bail to appear at Central Local Court today (Thursday 16 September 2021).

The five Organised Crime Squad detectives who travelled to Dubai have now commenced mandatory 14-day isolation in hotel quarantine and will undergo all necessary COVID-19 health checks before returning to work.

State Crime Commander, Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, said the resolution to the transnational investigation was testament to the patience and work ethic of those involved.

“Almost 100 officers attached to State Crime Command worked with law enforcement partners around the world – notably Dubai Police, AFP International Command, the NSW Crime Commission, ABF, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Commonwealth Attorney General, and Interpol – to see this investigation through.

“So far, police have laid 155 charges relating primarily to the distribution and supply of illicit drugs into our state – seizing more than $6 million in cash.

“Police will allege these two men played a significant role in the facilitation of an estimated 2.8 tonnes of methylamphetamine into New South Wales, co-ordinated from Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

“The message to those involved in transnational organised crime is now very clear; you cannot flee Australia for a life of opulence in the UAE as we will come for you and hold you accountable for the crimes committed on our shores.”

Assistant Commissioner Smith also praised the efforts of Dubai Police for the significant role they played in the resolution of Strike Force Millstream.

“The continued cooperation and support provided by Dubai’s law enforcement has been welcomed and cannot be understated with respect to this investigation,” Assistant Commissioner Smith said.

“The combatting of transnational crime requires strong working relationships with international law enforcement partners, and I thank the United Arab Emirates for their assistance in dismantling this organised criminal network.

Five officers attached to State Crime Command’s Organised Crime Squad joined the AFP, ABF, and Australia’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Heidi Venamore, in a service recognising the efforts of Dubai Police over the course of the investigation.

Lieutenant General Abdulla Khalifa Al Marri of Dubai Police was presented with the NSW Police Force Commissioner’s Commendation for Service, while another 24 officers received a Commissioner’s Unit Citation for their assistance.

“These awards were presented on behalf of Commissioner Mick Fuller to acknowledge the overwhelming ongoing support shown by Dubai Police, not just in the investigative stage of the operation, but throughout the entire extradition process,” Assistant Commissioner Smith said.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott acknowledged the outstanding collaboration and the dedicated work of detectives in this protracted investigation.

“Today’s charges are the culmination of eight years of commitment by the NSW Police Force to bring this investigation to resolution,” Mr Elliott said.

“Given the transnational nature of these crimes, the extradition and charging of these two men today could only have been achieved by the tenacity and partnership of more than sixteen Australian and international law enforcement agencies.

“I particularly want to acknowledge Dubai Police, who have worked closely with investigators to apprehend and provide these men for extradition to Australia.

“The message to criminals could not be clearer – you cannot hide and will be brought to account for any criminal enterprise,” he said.

AFP Detective Superintendent Jane Dickinson said the success of the surrender of these two men to Australia from the UAE is testament to the excellent relationships between the AFP, NSW Police, Dubai Police and UAE judicial authorities.

“The AFP liaison post in the UAE has worked tirelessly with NSW Police, Attorney General’s Department and Dubai Police to have these men returned to Australia to face criminal charges,” Det. Supt. Dickinson said.

“It is a prime example of the strong and well-established engagement and partnerships the AFP International Network has offshore that has allowed authorities to bring these criminals to justice in the interests of a safer and more secure Australia.

“Dubai Police arrested the men in June 2020, only days after receiving the INTERPOL Red Notice. NSW Police Organised Crime Squad are to be congratulated on their diligence and perseverance in pursuing the two men after they fled Australia in 2015,” she said.

During the eight-year investigation, Strike Force Millstream detectives and NSW Crime Commission officers have had significant assistance from law enforcement agencies including;

• Australian Border Force

• Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

• Australian Federal Police

• Australian Federal Police International Command (Liaison Officers in UAE and United Kingdom)

• Department of Home Affairs

• Dubai Police

• Hamburg Customs Investigation Office (Germany)

• Interpol (Abdu Dhabi and ACT)

• Northamptonshire Police

• National Investigation Department (The Netherlands)

• Republic of Moldova; Law Enforcement

• South Australia Police

• Spanish Guardia Civil (Judical Police Unit, Central Operations Unit, Money Laundering Group)

• U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

• U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation

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