Man charged as part of joint agency investigation into drug and firearm importations

A man has been charged as part of a joint-agency investigation into the alleged importation of illegal firearm parts and drug manufacturing equipment in the NSW’s Central Tablelands.

In late June, Australian Border Force (ABF) officers intercepted a consignment from Japan containing a BB gun and pellets – a prohibited import.

A total of ten packages were detected by ABF officers, which had arrived either via air cargo or International mail, from Hong Kong, China, Germany and Japan between June and September.

During this time, the matter was referred to the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) and Western Region Enforcement Squad commenced inquiries.

Further packages, which were destined for Australia, were seized in the United States and referred to US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to conduct inquiries.

As such, NSWPF, ABF and HSI commenced a joint investigation last month, which also included inquiries into the importation of items associated with the manufacture of illicit drugs.

Following extensive investigations, NSWPF officers attached to Western Region Enforcement Squad and investigators from ABF and HSI executed a NSW search warrant and a customs search and seizure warrant at a home at South Bathurst just after 6am today (Wednesday 23 September 2020).

The operation was also assisted by Chifley Police District, the Dog Unit, and Western Operations Support Group.

On entry, investigators spoke with the 36-year-old male resident, who was in the company of two young children, before a loaded .45 calibre handgun was seized from an adjacent room.

A child at risk report has since been submitted to Family and Community Services.

The man was served with Firearms and Weapons Prohibition Orders before being arrested and taken to Bathurst Police Station.

After investigators uncovered a suspicious substance inside the home, assistance was requested from Fire and Rescue NSW’s HAZMAT to render the area safe.

Specialist officers from the Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit and the Drug and Firearms Squad’s Chemical Operations Unit attended and determined the substance was inert, and the search resumed.

The man has been charged with possess unregistered firearm-not prohibited firearm/pistol, not keep firearm safely-not prohibited firearm/pistol, possess ammunition without holding licence/permit/authority, and possess or use a prohibited weapon without permit.

The search of the man’s home is continuing, and further charges are expected to be laid.

He was refused bail to appear at Lithgow Local Court tomorrow (Thursday 24 September 2020).

Joint inquiries are ongoing.

Western Region Enforcement Squad Commander, Detective Acting Inspector Rob Bevern, said the NSW Police Force is committed to working with partner agencies to target the importation and supply of illicit firearms.

“Today’s action demonstrates how agencies at a state, federal and international level work collaboratively to detect and disrupt criminal activity,” A/Insp Bevern said.

“Firearms can cause considerable fear – we know that when in the wrong hands, they are dangerous and a serious threat to the safety of our community.

“This investigation should send a clear message that no matter where you are, if you are involved in criminal activity, law enforcement agencies will do everything in their power to ensure you are brought to justice.”

ABF Regional Investigations NSW Superintendent Garry Low said targeting illegal firearm imports is a priority for the ABF.

“Any weapons or parts purchased overseas have to come across the border and that’s where our highly-trained officers, detector dogs and cutting-edge x-ray technology are used to detect and stop these deadly imports,” Supt Low said.

“This arrest highlights how the ABF works with its partner agencies here in Australia and overseas to build a global web of information about those buying and selling illicit firearms and firearm parts.”

HSI Attaché to Australia Adam Parks said disrupting international firearms trafficking is a top priority of HSI.

“Collaboration with our Australian law enforcement partners is key to the success of these investigations,” Attaché Parks said.

“As such, HSI is grateful to the ABF and the NSWPF for their efforts to keep these deadly weapons out of the community.”

Information about the importation of firearms, illicit drugs or other prohibited items can be reported to BorderWatch: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about-us/what-we-do/borderwatch/reporting.

Anyone with information about the importation and/or supply of firearms or illicit drugs is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.

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