1.28-tonne cocaine seizure is Australia’s second largest

Cocaine seizure

This is a joint media release issued by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Border Force

An AFP-led investigation into an alleged organised crime syndicate has resulted in the seizure of 1.28 tonnes of cocaine in Sydney – the second-largest seizure in Australian history – with a potential street value nearing half a billion dollars.

Operation Amorgos commenced in April 2017, with the interception of a container of pre-fabricated steel arriving into Sydney from a source country via China by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers.

An examination by ABF officers revealed 2576 individual blocks of cocaine concealed within the steel, weighing 1.28 tonnes in total.

This is the second-largest haul of cocaine in Australia, the largest being 1.4 tonnes of cocaine seized as a result of a joint operation conducted by the AFP and ABF in February 2017.

AFP forensic chemists conducted a deconstruction and analysis of the cocaine and determined a purity of around 78 per cent, meaning the seizure has an estimated street value of up to $500 million.

AFP investigators commenced a tenacious nine-month investigation to pursue those allegedly responsible for this importation. This has involved the cooperation of law enforcement and border protection agencies worldwide, including the ABF and New Zealand Police.

On Tuesday, 16 January 2018, three Australian nationals were detained by Serbian authorities (the Service for Combating Organised Crime, of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia in cooperation with the Prosecutors Office for Organised Crime of the Republic of Serbia), for their suspected links to an organised crime syndicate the AFP believes is responsible for facilitating the importation of the 1.28 tonnes of cocaine.

Further investigation and liaison with Serbian authorities is still ongoing.

As a result of the action by Serbian authorities, the AFP executed five search warrants on Wednesday, 17 January 2018 in Canberra, Murrumbateman, Jeir and Goulburn.

No arrests have been made in Australia at this time, though investigations remain ongoing.

AFP Detective Superintendent Stephen Dametto, Coordinator Organised Crime and Cyber, said the worldwide span of Operation Amorgos illustrates the advantage the AFP’s international network provides in targeting organised crime syndicates operating globally.

“This investigation has demonstrated the agility and ingenuity of AFP investigators, who took a seizure and ran with it in cooperation with our international partners to identify an organised crime syndicate,” Detective Superintendent Dametto said.

“We know Australia remains one of the most attractive markets for drug imports – in 2017, we made record seizures of cocaine at the Australian border in AFP joint operations. We will continue to work cooperatively with our partners to dismantle syndicates behind importations and target their crime networks at their source, wherever in the world that may be.”

ABF Acting Assistant Commissioner, Strategic Border Command, Tim Fitzgerald said the seizure is a testament to the detection, intelligence and investigative capabilities of the ABF and partner agencies before, at and after the border.

“Thanks to the diligence of ABF intelligence officers we were able to identify the specific container as it was travelling to Sydney and then target that container for a search when it arrived,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Fitzgerald said.

“This was a sophisticated concealment, but thanks to our highly trained officers and world-class screening technology, we were able to locate the cocaine and ultimately disrupt a significant international drug operation.”

New Zealand Police Assistant Commissioner (Investigations), Richard Chambers, said NZ Police will continue to work closely with Australian colleagues to target and catch transnational criminals responsible for the movement of illicit drugs.  

“Cocaine causes significant harm to individuals, families and communities and we are pleased Operation Amorgos has prevented a significant amount of this drug entering the marketplace,” Assistant Commissioner Chambers said.

**Editor’s note: Images and footage of this operation is available to download via the following link: https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/Q21voQzU6D.**

Media enquiries

AFP National Media: (02) 6131 6333

ABF Media:               (02) 6264 2244

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2020-21

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

Platypus Online: Read. Discover. Enjoy.