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Joint operation stops over 15 million MDMA pills reaching Australian streets

22 November 2019, 9:43am
Media Release

Joint operation stops over 15 million MDMA pills reaching Australian streets

The Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (QLD JOCTF), working with the National Police of the Netherlands (NPN) Criminal Investigations Division, has charged 11 people and seized MDMA with an estimated street value totalling AUD $301.6 million.

Beginning in January 2019, officers from the QLD JOCTF commenced Operation Parazonium to investigate an organisation allegedly responsible for the importation of large quantities of dangerous drugs into Australia.

Following an extensive operation QLD JOCTF officers, working alongside officers from the NPN seized 700kg of crystalline MDMA in Rotterdam on 23 August, which was allegedly bound for export to Queensland.

The NPN Criminal Investigation Division subsequently commenced operation 26Camphill, targeting the activities of the Dutch nationals. As a result of extensive investigations into a sophisticated criminal syndicate search warrants were executed at 15 locations in the Netherlands and Belgium on 5 November.

These search warrants uncovered concealed laboratories and 50 tonnes of precursor chemicals for the production of MDMA.

It will be alleged in total authorities seized approximately 850kg of crystalline MDMA, with an estimated street value of AUD $170 million. This quantity of drugs had the potential to be made into approximately 8.5 million MDMA tablets in Australia.

NPN officers from the Criminal Investigation Division also seized 548 litres of MDMA oil, which is capable of producing approximately 658kg of crystalline MDMA, with an estimated street value of AUD $131.6 million and approximately 400 litres of precursor chemicals.

This quantity of drugs and precursor chemicals has the potential to be made into approximately 6.58 million MDMA tablets in Australia and a further 180kg of methamphetamine.

In total authorities seized approximately 850kg of crystalline MDMA and 548 litres of MDMA Oil from locations in the Netherlands and Belgium. With an estimated street value of AUD $301.6 million, this quantity of drugs had the potential to be processed into over 15 million MDMA tablets in Australia.

Amongst the arrested Dutch nationals were two key players, a 58-year-old man (arrested in Belgium) and 37-year-old man (arrested in the Netherlands).

The 58-year-old man will be extradited to the Netherlands. The arrested Dutch nationals have been charged by Dutch authorities and are currently awaiting trial in the Netherlands.

A 48-year-old Bass Hill woman was arrested by police in Sydney on 11 November and subsequently extradited to Brisbane where she was charged with:

  • Attempt to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to Section 307.5 and Section 11.1 Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

She is next due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on November 29.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw said the officers in the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce work tirelessly to target those attempting to bring these harmful drugs into our communities.

"The AFP is committed to working closely with its law enforcement partners here in Australia, through partnerships such as the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce, and overseas to ensure offenders face considerable consequences for their actions," Commissioner Kershaw said.

"I wish to thank our Dutch counterparts for their expert involvement in this investigation and strong support of our efforts to keep these drugs off Australian shores."

Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford said operation results were achieved through cooperative international investigations.

"The sad reality is these drugs were destined for our Australian communities to be diluted with other contaminants and then falsely pedalled as a safe drug. They are anything but this, in fact they are made by unsophisticated and unqualified people in clandestine conditions whose priority is not the authenticity of their product but profit," Deputy Commissioner Linford said.

Assistant Commissioner Andy Kraag of the Dutch National Criminal Investigations Division said international law enforcement agencies should work closely together.

"We are able to jointly target key players and effectively dismantle criminal networks responsible for the global drug trade," Assistant commissioner Andy Kraag said.

ABF Assistant Commissioner Enforcement Command, Sharon Huey said intercepting such a huge quantity of MDMA before it reached the border is a great result in terms of preventing criminal profits and harm to the Australian community.

"The ABF's technical capabilities and highly trained officers frequently seize different quantities of this illicit and dangerous substance. ABF officers work every day to detect and disrupt these types of criminal operations, no matter how sophisticated they are," Assistant Commissioner Huey said.

The QJOCTF is a multi-agency taskforce comprised of members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Queensland Police Service (QPS), Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and Australian Transaction Reporting and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC). The role of the QJOCTF is to investigate transnational serious and organised crime threats impacting Australia.    

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Editor's Note

Footage and images of the search warrants are available for download.

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