20 January 2024, 1:43pm
Vic trio charged after firearms, explosives and about $1 million cash seized
This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police and Australian Border Force
Editor’s note: Footage available via Hightail
Three Melbourne men, including an alleged Russian organised crime member, have been charged with firearms and proceeds of crime offences as part of an ongoing Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (VIC-JOCTF) investigation.
The men faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on 18 January, 2024 after being arrested on Wednesday when police allegedly found a number of firearms, explosive devices and about $1 million in illicit cash during search warrants executed across Melbourne.
Two of the men, aged 49 and 46, were remanded in custody and did not seek bail. The third man, aged 64, from Brighton, was granted bail by the court.
The JOCTF responded to an alert from Australian Border Force (ABF) following the detection of a counterfeit Dutch passport in the international mail stream.
ABF officers found the fake passport in a package addressed to a business in Burwood, sent via air cargo.
Police conducted a controlled delivery of the package to the Burwood address on 5 January, where an individual working for the business allegedly accepted the package.
On the same day, a 46-year-old North Fitzroy man attended the business and departed with the package. He then allegedly delivered it to the alleged Russian organised crime member.
Police allegedly identified the 49-year-old man in the passport photo and believe he was planning to use the document to depart Australia undetected and avoid facing court.
The AFP Tactical Response team arrested the 49-year-old in Port Melbourne on Wednesday (17 January, 2024), where he was allegedly found in possession of a mobile handset in contravention of his bail conditions.
When police searched his possessions, they also allegedly found an envelope containing a large amount of cash and a camera which had stored images of various firearms and a grenade.
Police then executed a search warrant at the man’s Albert Park home where they found and seized gold bullion coins, five USBs, multiple mobile phones and about $400,000 in Australian and US currency.
Victoria Police members subsequently attended a Tyabb property allegedly linked to the group.
Police excavated soil from the area and uncovered six storage cases that contained sophisticated explosive devices. Also located were a large number of assorted firearms, ammunition and a substance suspected by police to be drugs.
Victoria Police Bomb Response Unit (BRU) members and detectives from the Arson and Explosives Squad attended the property to assess the explosives for safe disposal.
Police also attended the location in Humevale and excavated an area to reveal an additional storage case and a length of PVC pipe, both of which contained firearms and ammunition.
The 46-year-old man was arrested at his home in North Fitzroy, where police located and seized three unlawful firearms, a small amount of cocaine and methamphetamine, and three mobile phones during a search warrant.
A third man, 64, was arrested in Melbourne’s CBD. A search warrant was executed by police at his Brighton home where they seized about $600,000 cash.
A fifth search warrant was executed at another Albert Park property allegedly linked to the men, where police seized a small amount of a white powder suspected to be illicit drugs, a laptop and three mobile phone handsets.
Police will allege more than 40 guns were seized in total during this investigation.
AFP Detective Acting Superintendent David MacGregor said the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce had successfully removed a range of deadly weapons from the hands of alleged organised crime gang members.
“Criminals may use firearms and other weapons to intimidate others or commit violence but even when they are targeting each other, innocent bystanders – including their own families – risk being harmed or killed,” Det.Act Supt MacGregor said.
“The nature of this alleged offending is very concerning and our investigations are continuing into organised criminal group links.
“Removing cash suspected to be linked to illegal activity is also important to prevent it being used to fund future criminal ventures.
“The AFP will continue to work with law enforcement partners to make Australia a hostile environment for serious organised crime groups and stop them from profiting at the community’s expense.”
Victoria Police Detective Superintendent David Cowan, Organised Crime Division – Crime Command:
“Over the past two days, police have worked tirelessly to uncover a significant cache of weapons that could have brought immense harm to the Victorian community. It is not often we see a seizure of this size within a single investigation, let alone coupled with the amount of explosives, drugs and cash we have uncovered. These items represent the potential for serious offending including deaths or serious injuries of innocent parties had they immediately been in the hands of criminals.
“As well as removing these items from any further public circulation, they also provide us with a number of further avenues of enquiry for serious and organised crime. We will now start the process of forensically assessing these seizures to see if they are connected in any way to other investigations.
“Importantly, we also have three people who have been arrested in connection with this investigation and two of those people are currently on remand.
“This result is testament to the tenacity of investigators across all agencies and the support of our specialist services including the Bomb Response Unit and Arson and Explosives Squad, was also crucial in getting this outcome.”
ABF A/Superintendent, Regional Investigations (VIC/TAS), Steve Orme outlined the ABF's role in disrupting the activities of organised crime groups.
“Our dedicated investigative teams have played a key supporting role in this joint agency operation, and we will continue to keep our community safe by breaking the business models of organised criminals targeting Australia.” Superintendent Orme Said.
“Our border is one of our most critical strategic national assets and criminals should know that the ABF will continue to detect, disrupt and dismantle crime syndicates side-by-side with our law enforcement partners.”
The investigation remains ongoing and further arrests have not been ruled out.
The Albert Park man, 49, was charged with:
- One count of unlawfully possessing two or more unregistered firearms, contrary to section 7C(1) of the Firearms Act 1996 (VIC);
- One count of disposing of two or more firearms within 12 months while not the holder of a dealer’s licence, contrary to section 101A(1) of the Firearms Act 1996 (VIC);
- One count of committing an indictable offence of possessing a traffickable quantity of firearms while on bail, contrary to section 30B of the Bail Act 1997 (VIC);
- One count of contravening a condition of his bail without a reasonable excuse by not abiding by his curfew, contrary to section 30A(1)of the Bail Act 1977 (VIC);
- Two counts of dealing with the proceeds of crime, namely an unknown large amount of Australian currency, while being reckless as to whether the currency was proceeds of crime, contrary to section 194(3) of the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC);
- Two counts of dealing with the proceeds of crime, namely an unknown large amount of Australian currency, while being negligent as to whether the currency was proceeds of crime, contrary to section 194(4) of the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC); and
- Two counts of dealing with property, namely an unknown large amount of Australian currency, suspected of being the proceeds of crime, contrary to section 195 of the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC).
The North Fitzroy man, 46, was charged with:
- One count of failing to comply with an order, contrary to section 3LA(2) and 3LA(5) of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth);
- One count of possessing two or more firearms that are not registered, contrary to section 7C(1) of the Firearms Act 1996 (VIC);
- Possessing cartridge ammunition while not the holder of a licence, contrary to section 58A of the Firearms Act 1996 (VIC);
- One count of possessing a drug of dependence, namely cocaine, contrary to section 73 of the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (VIC); and
- One count of possessing a drug of dependence, namely methamphetamine, contrary to 73 of the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (VIC).
The Brighton man, 64, was charged with:
- Possessing two or more firearms that are not registered, contrary to 7C (1) of the Firearms Act 1996 (VIC); and
- Proceeds of crime offences.