Three Sydney men have been charged and 55kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $20 million has been seized following a joint Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (ABF) operation in Sydney.
On 12 June 2019, a container was targeted by ABF officers at the Sydney Container Examination facility after arriving from India. It was X-rayed, and anomalies were noted in the X-ray image.
Inside the container, ABF officers located a 2300kg plasma cutting machine, traditionally used to cut through electrically conductive materials.
Deconstruction of the plasma cutting machine revealed an enclosed metal cavity which contained a white powder. Presumptive testing, returned a positive result for cocaine.
AFP investigators conducted further examination and located 110 blocks of white powder hidden within four panels. A total of 55kg of cocaine was seized with an estimated street value of over $20 million.
On 2 July 2019, the AFP commenced a controlled delivery with support from ABF.
On 25 July 2019, search warrants were conducted at addresses in Arcadia and Toongabbie in north western Sydney. A number of encrypted devices, drug paraphernalia, ammunition, power tools (used to access the consignment) and a Radio Frequency Tracer were seized and three men were arrested.
A 52-year-old Arcadia man, 45-year-old Rouse Hill man and 48-year-old Castle Hill man have each been charged with one count of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs (cocaine), contrary to Section 307.5 by virtue of Section 11.1 of the Criminal Code 1995.
The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for life.
AFP Detective Superintendent Ben McQuillan, Coordinator Organised Crime said today’s seizure was a significant win for law enforcement and the community.
“This seizure is equivalent to 5,500 street deals which we have successfully stopped reaching the community. The AFP’s key goal is to protect the safety of the community, and today’s seizure shows that we are achieving this,” Superintendent McQuillan said.
“People who plan to engage in this sort of crime should be warned – the AFP and its partner agencies are successfully combatting drug crime and we will continue to work with our local and international partners to achieve these outcomes.”
ABF Regional Investigations Superintendent Garry Low said the detection, which was made due to intelligence-based targeting activity, was an example of the ABF’s multi-layered approach to border protection.
“This is obviously an unusual concealment, and it’s a very innovative one. To the untrained eye this looked like an ordinary piece of machinery. But we obviously have the intelligence capability and the technology to find sophisticated concealments like this, no matter how professional they look,” Superintendent Low said.
“Through our close working relationships with our law enforcement partners both here and overseas, we continue to achieve significant operational outcomes, smashing illicit drug smuggling syndicates and tackling the growing demand for harmful substances such as cocaine in Australia.”
Investigations are continuing and further charges have not been ruled out.
The three men are scheduled to appear in Sydney Central Local Court today (26 July 2019).
For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
Anyone with information about the importation of illicit drugs and precursors should contact BorderWatch at Australia.gov.au/borderwatch. By reporting suspicious activities, you help protect Australia’s border. Information can be provided anonymously.