Media Release: $237 million worth of drugs found in heavy machinery, two foreign nationals arrested

Release Date: Wednesday, November 21 2012, 10:35 AM

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has disrupted an international drug syndicate, seizing 350 kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamine, with a combined estimated street value worth up to $237 million. 

During the Sydney operation a total of 235 kilograms of methamphetamine, worth an estimated street value of up to $174 million and 115 kilograms of cocaine, worth an estimated street value of up to $63 million were seized along with approximately $150,000.

A 33-year-old US national was charged yesterday (20 November 2012) and will appear in Sydney Central Local today (21 November 2012).

A 34-year-old Canadian national was charged with importing the drugs and was refused bail in the Sydney Central Local Court on Monday (19 November 2012).

The seizure comes after a two and a half year complex and protracted AFP investigation, commencing in May 2010. The investigation, codenamed Operation Pendine, began when the AFP targeted an international organised crime syndicate planning to conduct a significant illicit drug importation into Australia.

On 17 and 18 November 2012, the AFP conducted a total of five search warrants in the Sydney suburbs of Warriewood, Randwick, Terrey Hills, North Narrabeen and Avalon.

A search warrant was executed in a storage unit at Warriewood in northern Sydney, where AFP officers located a 20 tonne road roller, dismantling equipment and 13 sports bags containing blocks of compressed powder and a crystalline substance. 

Had the seizure reached Australian streets it would have had a significant impact on health workers, health of users as well as destroying countless families, according to experts.

Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Professor Michael Farrell said recent surveys of drug users have indicated increased use of methamphetamines, including “ice”.

There has also been a steady increase in use of cocaine over the past six years particularly among young women in their 20s.
“These are not benign substances,” Professor Farrell said. “Both are associated with mental health problems including psychosis, aggressive behaviour and unpredictability.

“As well there is increasing evidence linking cocaine and methamphetamine use to heart disease including sudden heart attacks.”

Acting National Manager Serious and Organised Crime David Sharpe said this seizure follows a number of successful joint investigations, which have resulted in the seizure of more than 2.3 tonnes of illicit substances in the past five months.

“This operation has stopped a significant amount of harmful drugs from entering the community,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Sharpe said.

“This seizure sends a clear message to criminals that no matter how long it takes, how complex or innovative the concealment method, global law enforcement is joining forces to stop the importation of illicit drugs into Australia.”

“Criminal syndicates targeting Australia should be looking over their shoulders every day.”

The US national and the Canadian national have been charged with the following offences:

  •  Importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely Methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
  • Importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely Cocaine, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

The US national was also charged with dealing with property dealing in proceeds of crime etc — money or property worth $100,000 or more, contrary to section 400.4(1) of the Criminal Code 1995.

The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment and/or $850,000 fine.

Enquiries into this matter remain ongoing and the AFP has not ruled out further arrests.
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AFP National Media (02) 6131 6333