Media Release: 117kg of drugs seized in organised crime investigation spanning five countries

Release Date: Friday, March 22 2013, 10:00 AM

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has dismantled an international organised crime syndicate spanning Australia and four European countries, seizing 117 kilograms of MDMA base which is commonly used to manufacture the drug ecstasy.

It is estimated that the base materials could produce up to 1.37 million ecstasy tablets. On the street the drug has a potential value of up to $52 million.

The complex 18 month investigation has resulted in three arrests in Australia and one in the United Kingdom, with search warrants being executed in Australia, United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands.

The AFP arrested a 32-year-old woman in Melbourne and a 38-year-old man in Sydney yesterday who are alleged to have conspired to import the narcotics from Spain, concealed in bottles of olive oil. Both people have been extradited to Queensland and are expected to face court today (Friday 22 March).

During the execution of a search warrant in Coogee NSW, a 33-year-old Irish national (Australian resident) was located in possession of approximately 750gm of MDMA and $42,270 cash. He was subsequently arrested by the AFP.

A 35-year-old man was also arrested in the United Kingdom and the AFP will be seeking to extradite him to Australia to face charges in relation to this matter.

AFP Manager Brisbane Office Mark Walters said the AFP continues to deliver results for the Australian community when it comes to combatting organised crime.

“The AFP and its international partners are setting a benchmark for international law enforcement cooperation,” Commander Walters said.

“Through our combined commitment to combatting drug importations, we are working across jurisdictions and borders to deal significant blows to organised crime syndicates.

“This operation shows that police continue to disrupt sophisticated criminal enterprises involved in the importation of illicit drugs and will continue to identify and arrest those involved.”

The investigation was supported by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Attorney Generals Department and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. 

The operation would not have been a success without the assistance provided by the UK’s International Assistance Unit and Extradition Unit of the Metropolitan Police Service, the Belgium Federal Police, the Central Criminal Investigations Service (CCIS) of the National Police of the Netherlands (NPN), and the Central Unit for Drugs and Organised Crime and International Relations of the Spanish National Police.

The 32-year-old woman and the 38-year-old man have been charged with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs into Australia, namely MDMA, pursuant to section 11.5 and 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995.

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment and/or $1,275,000 fine or both.
 
The 33-year-old Irish national has been charged with trafficking a marketable quantity of MDMA and dealing in the proceeds of crime. These offences carry a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment and 10 years respectively.

Enquiries are continuing in Australia and overseas, and the AFP has not ruled out further arrests.

Media enquiries:
AFP National Media (02) 6131 6333

Note to media: Broadcast quality vision and photographs will be available on the AFP website: http://www.afp.gov.au/media-centre.aspx . Please contact AFP National Media for password access.