Major drug trafficking operation closes today

The Queensland Joint Organised Crime Task Force (QJOCTF), in conjunction with the Queensland Police Service (QPS) State Crime Command, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Taxation Office, AUSTRAC, New South Wales Police, and South Australia Police has today closed a major operation which focused on investigating the trafficking of dangerous drugs, specifically cannabis, Queensland Police say.

The closure is the culmination of a 12-month joint organised crime investigation that crossed national and international borders targeting a large organised crime syndicate alleged to be involved in the commercial distribution of cannabis from South Australia into Queensland and New South Wales.

It will be alleged that syndicate members in South Australia have been distributing significant quantities of cannabis through the mail stream to syndicate members in NSW and QLD who have on-sold the cannabis to local distributors.

The investigation was jointly conducted by the respective agencies in Queensland (QJOCTF Operation Western), New South Wales (Strikeforce Herber) and South Australia (Operation Eastwood).

Police and the ABF in Queensland yesterday executed 12 search warrants in Brisbane and the Gold Coast with 10 persons being arrested and charged with serious drug trafficking and associated offences in Queensland.  A total of 8.3kg cannabis, and $160,950 cash, mobile phones/electronic devices, drug utensils and drug production materials were also seized.

Police in South Australia also executed 17 search warrants in Adelaide resulting in 11 arrests, the majority of which have been charged with drug trafficking a large quantity of a controlled drug, five have also been charged with money laundering. Police also seized more than $176,000 in cash, 16kg of dried cannabis, 46 plants and a range of other drugs.

Police in New South Wales also executed three search warrants in Sydney and Tweed Heads resulting in three arrests and a total of 16.6kg cannabis, cannabis seeds, a cannabis plant, $51,430 cash, documentation and packaging materials seized.

Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker from the State Crime Command Drug and Serious Crime Group said “These arrests are indicative of the effectiveness of collaboration between State and Commonwealth agencies in the fight against organised criminal behaviour that crosses jurisdictions”.

ABF Investigations Superintendent Matt Stock said the resolution of the operation was a significant step towards ensuring community safety and combatting the illegal drug trade.

“Working closely with Queensland Police and other agencies, our officers have worked tirelessly for over a year to effectively investigate and target this criminal group,” Superintendent Stock said.

“Our multidisciplinary team has provided operational, investigative and specialist trace detection leads. Looking at the many agencies involved, it really speaks volume as to how effectively we work together on both the state and federal level.”

Detective Superintendent Russell Smith of the Australian Federal Police said “This investigation further demonstrates the ability of State and Commonwealth law enforcement agencies to work together to investigate, prosecute and disrupt organised criminal groups endeavouring to exploit vulnerabilities in the mail and cargo streams as part of their activities”.

John Visser, National Manager Intelligence of Australia’s financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC, said his agency works closely with law enforcement partners around the country to protect our community and our economy from the harm of criminal syndicates.

“AUSTRAC’s intelligence and analysis has been central to supporting the investigation, tracking down other entities of interest and following the money trail associated with the proceeds of drug trafficking,” Mr Visser said.

“South Australia Police are pleased with today’s outstanding results which again demonstrate the close working relationship between state and federal agencies as we continue to successful tackle interstate drug syndicates,” Detective Chief Inspector Tony Crameri, the acting officer in charge of the SA Police Serious and Organised Crime Branch, said.

Investigations are continuing and will be ongoing with a number of further arrests expected to follow in the coming weeks.

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