The NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) has charged a Queensland man over alleged firearm trafficking as part of an ongoing investigation into the illicit supply and possession of firearms in NSW.
Earlier this year, members of the NSW JCTT – comprising the Australian Federal Police (AFP), NSW Police Force (NSWPF), the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the NSW Crime Commission – received information relating to a group with possible access to illegal firearms and members with suspected extremist ideology.
Operation Bouwel was subsequently commenced to investigate the group’s involvement in the acquirement and supply of firearms and explosives.
Three men – aged 26, 29, and 30 – were arrested and charged in June. They remain before the courts.
Following further investigations, the NSW JCTT and the Gold Coast Joint Organised Crime Task Force commenced an operation in south-east Queensland on Tuesday (13 October 2020).
About 9.15am, a 38-year-old man was arrested outside a gym at Robina and taken to Southport Watch House. During a search of the man and his belongings, investigators seized a mobile phone and an encrypted phone.
He was charged with a cross-border offence of disposal or acquisition of a firearm.
The Mudgeeraba man has been granted strict conditional bail and is due to appear at Southport Magistrates Court on Tuesday 27 October 2020.
Following the arrest, investigators executed search warrants at homes at Mudgeeraba and Bonogin, and a beauty salon at Varsity Lakes.
During the searches, police seized cash, an encrypted phone, clothing and documentation.
Following further inquiries, a search warrant was executed on a rural property at Rosedale – outside of Bundaberg – about 8am on Wednesday (14 October 2020), where investigators seized a double barrel shotgun, a pump-action shotgun, a .22 calibre rifle, and various calibres of ammunition.
Another search warrant was executed on a property at Lowmead about midday on Wednesday, where officers located equipment consistent with large-scale drug manufacture and cultivation.
A further two firearms – both SKS rifles – were also seized from the property.
The NSW JCTT also conducted a search warrant on a plane within a hangar at the Gold Coast Airport yesterday (Thursday 15 October 2020). The Cessna also underwent a forensic examination and the logbook was seized.
NSWPF Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Acting Assistant Commissioner Michael McLean, said Operation Bouwel demonstrates the effectiveness of cooperation of law enforcement across jurisdictions and areas of expertise.
“The NSW JCTT has so far seized more than 20 firearms across two states during Operation Bouwel, and our inquiries have once again uncovered strong links between potential acts of terrorism and organised criminal activity,” Acting Assistant Commissioner McLean said.
“Regardless of the individual’s motivation, a firearm in the possession of someone who should not have it, can have devastating circumstances, and the NSW Police Force will continue to target anyone who seeks to do harm within our community.”
AFP Assistant Commissioner Counter Terrorism and Special Investigations Scott Lee said the high-calibre of weapons seized in this investigation was troubling.
“I want to thank the NSW JCTT and Gold Coast JOCTF investigators for their diligent efforts in taking these weapons off the streets, and in following the trail of the organised crime network supplying them from NSW to Queensland. This work will continue as we are all determined to bring everyone involved in this network to account for their criminal actions,” Assistant Commissioner Lee said.
“The primary objective of the NSW JCTT is to protect the community, and having these weapons out there poses a threat to not only the intended targets of criminality, but innocent people who may find themselves unwittingly at a location where someone illegally uses these firearms.”
Investigations under Operation Bouwel are continuing.
Anyone with information about extremist activity or possible threats to the community should come forward, no matter how small or insignificant you may think the information may be. The National Security Hotline is 1800 123 400.
Further, information relating to any criminal activity in the community can be reported to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence.