A criminal syndicate with links inside Sydney Airport has been shut down and three men arrested after Australian authorities discovered illicit drugs were being transported via commercial flights from South Africa.
The joint operation, between the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF), the NSW Police Force, and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), began in February 2019 to target the activities of the alleged criminal syndicate.
Extensive investigations revealed a 50-year-old Oran Park man – an employee of a Sydney International Airport service provider – was allegedly using his airside access to import cocaine through the baggage holds of commercial flights.
Australian authorities identified two men, aged 47 and 42, who allegedly received the bags once removed from the aircraft.
On 15 April 2019, AFP officers arrested the 42-year-old man in the vicinity of Sydney Airport. It will be alleged a search of the man’s vehicle uncovered a black duffel bag, containing a number of vacuum-sealed packages wrapped in black and silver paper, believed to be cocaine.
The total combined weight of the packages was 27 kilograms. The exact weight, purity and value of the drugs will be determined following further forensic testing.
The man was arrested and charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, contrary to section 302.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). He is next scheduled to appear in Sydney Central Local Court on 12 June.
Investigations continued and yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 22 May, police arrested the 50-year-old airport employee at Sydney International Airport. He was found in possession of a bag containing approximately 28 kilograms of a substance believed to be cocaine. Further forensic testing is required to determine the exact weight, purity and value of the substance.
A 47-year-old Moorebank man was later arrested outside his house for his alleged role in receiving imports of illegal drugs from the Oran Park man.
Investigators executed six search warrants yesterday evening in the Sydney suburbs of Oran Park, Hoxton Park, Moorebank (two locations) and Revesby (two locations).
Approximately $8 million in cash was seized at a Hoxton Park location linked to the 50-year-old Oran Park man.
Both men arrested yesterday were each charged with six counts of importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). If convicted, they could face life imprisonment.
The Oran Park man is expected to appear before Sydney Central Local Court, while the Moorebank man is set to appear before Liverpool Local Court.
AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Brad Edgtton, Sydney Organised Crime, said the investigation was an excellent example of intelligence-led policing and the combined efforts of Australian authorities in disrupting criminal networks.
“This has been a complex, multi-layered investigation, driven by the skills and expertise of intelligence analysts who were able to identify this offending to allow authorities to act,” he said.
“Criminals will seek to exploit any means possible to peddle drugs into Australia and to profit from the misery this causes within Australian communities. These arrests demonstrate trusted insiders who are allegedly willing to abuse that position of trust are on our radar.”
ABF Acting Regional Commander NSW Garry Low said the operation showed the variety of threats ABF officers faced in their efforts to protect the Australian border.
“These men used their intimate knowledge of the aviation environment to conduct this smuggling operation – but still weren’t able to avoid our detection. I’m proud of our investigators and intelligence team, who have all worked particularly hard in this joint operation to achieve this result and counter this major criminal activity,” he said.
“The arrest of these men should act as a warning to anyone considering abusing a privileged position at an Australian airport: just because you hold that position it does not mean the ABF isn’t alert to your activities.”
NSW Police Force’s Director of Crime Operations, Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Fileman, said Strike Force Yahmara is another example of cohesive law enforcement partnerships tackling large-scale drug importation and supply.
“Our joint investigations have been relentless in their pursuit of dismantling this particular international syndicate – and we’re not done yet,” he said.
“The relationship with our partner agencies is stronger than ever, and the seizure of $8 million cash is a testament to the joint operational activity cutting deep into the profits of professional facilitators of crime.”
Investigations remain ongoing and further arrests have not been ruled out.