A 48-year-old Sydney man has been charged over the importation of AR-15 rifle parts and methamphetamine into Australia through the postal system.
The man was arrested at his Merrylands home yesterday morning (14 October 2020) as part of a joint agency investigation launched in February 2020 when Australian Border Force (ABF) officers examined a package from the United States. The package contained pieces for an AR-15 firearm concealed inside a Bluetooth speaker.
The NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team began an investigation into the importation due to potential links to people of interest with extremist ideology. The investigation ultimately identified a number of people of interest with suspected links to organised crime.
On 9 April 2020, the ABF examined a consignment containing an air compressor and found approximately 495 grams of methamphetamine concealed inside. This concealment was found to be linked to the NSW JCTT Investigation into the AR-15 parts.
A 33-year-old Georges Hall man was arrested on 30 April 2020 over his alleged involvement in the methamphetamine seizure. He was charged with importing a marketable quantity of border controlled drugs and is next scheduled to appear in Sydney Central Local Court on 18 November 2020.
Ongoing investigations resulted in NSW JCTT investigators executing four search warrants in western Sydney yesterday (14 October), where a 48-year-old man from Merrylands was charged with one count of importation of prohibited items, namely firearm parts, contrary to section 233BAB(5) of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth) and importing a marketable quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.2 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
He is expected to appear in Fairfield Local Court today. These offences carry maximum penalties of 10 years and 25 years imprisonment, respectively.
During the execution of the search warrants, police seized two additional complete firearms – one Smith and Wesson 40-Calibre pistol and one SCCY 9mm pistol. Investigations are continuing into the origin of these weapons. Approximately $27,000 in cash and a number of high-value watches were also seized, which police will allege are the proceeds of crime.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Counter Terrorism and Special Investigations Scott Lee said investigators are increasingly finding that terrorism investigations in NSW appear to have direct links to organised crime activities.
“An AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle that can enable someone to fire off dozens of rounds quickly, and is an item that has no relevance or use for someone living in a city. Keeping illicit guns from the streets is a priority for police because of the dangers they pose in the hands of criminals,” Assistant Commissioner Lee said.
“The NSW JCTT began investigating this matter out of an abundance of caution, and while we have not identified links to any possible terrorism offences, we will still target those who seek to import dangerous firearms and drugs into Australia.”
Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Commander, Acting Assistant Commissioner Michael McLean, said the NSW Police Force and its partners are committed to protecting the community from individuals that seek to cause harm – regardless of their motivation.
“There is a known nexus between transnational organised crime and terrorism, which makes strong law enforcement partnerships and cooperation more important than ever,” Acting Assistant Commissioner McLean said.
“While there was no specific threat – or links to terrorism – identified in this investigation, any individual seeking to possess high-powered firearms is a serious concern and the JCTT has responded swiftly and appropriately.”
ABF Acting Regional Commander NSW, Brendan Slape, said the ABF was committed to protecting the community from all types of illegal imports.
“The safety of our community is a priority for the Australian Border Force and we will continue to work with our partner agencies to stop illicit weapons and drugs from reaching the community,” Acting Commander Slape said.
“Once again, we have seen seizures by our border officers lead to further operational activity onshore. The community can be assured that we will not tolerate the illegal importation of any goods, our officers are working 24/7 across Australia’s ports to combat any threat.”
Investigations into the involvement of other people in the importations is ongoing and police have not ruled out laying further charges.