Fifth man charged after seizure of 34kgs of drugs from Melbourne ‘safe house’

Editor's note: Arrest vision and drug images available via Hightail link.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) High Volume Drug Crime Team, together with Victoria Police Joint Taskforce Icarus members yesterday (Friday 13 August 2021) arrested and charged a 32-year-old Melbourne man, in connection to the seizure of 34 kilograms of illicit drugs from an alleged 'safe house' at Docklands in January 2021.

Investigators arrested the Malaysian national at his Ormond address yesterday morning. He is the fifth person charged with serious drug offences as a result of the joint taskforce investigation, codenamed Operation Trento.

The Malaysian national was also charged with the importation and attempted collection of three international consignments of border controlled drugs containing heroin and methamphetamine.

On January 22, Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Victoria Police officers seized 13.3 kilograms of methamphetamine and 20.8 kilograms of the border controlled precursor methyl alpha-phenylacetoacetate (MAPA) from a Docklands apartment.

It will be alleged in court that the Docklands apartment had been leased by a criminal syndicate exclusively to store imported drug consignments.

The methamphetamine seized by detectives in January has an estimated street value of $8.3 million dollars. Police will allege the MAPA chemicals are used to create methamphetamine.

Operation Trento commenced in October 2020, after authorities intercepted a separate shipment of almost eight kilograms of methamphetamine imported into Victoria. This amount of methamphetamine has an estimated street value of $5 million dollars.

The methamphetamine was hidden inside water filters and was detected by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers, before the investigation was referred to the AFP's High Volume Drug Crime Team.

Four Malaysian nationals have already been charged with drug importation offences in relation to Operation Trento, and remain in custody while the matters progress through the courts.

Police also seized approximately $153,000 from the alleged criminal syndicate during the operation.

The 32-year-old man arrested yesterday has been charged with:

  • Trafficking commercial quantities of a controlled drug (methamphetamine) contrary to subsection 302.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Importing marketable quantities of a border controlled drug (heroin) contrary to subsection 307.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Attempting to possess marketable quantities of a border controlled drug (heroin), contrary to section 307.6(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth) by virtue of section 11.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • 2 x importing marketable quantities of a border controlled drug (methamphetamine) contrary to subsection 307.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • 2 x attempting to possess marketable quantities of a border controlled drug, (methamphetamine), contrary to section 307.6(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth) by virtue of section 11.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Trafficking a controlled drug (MDMA) contrary to section 302.4(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for trafficking commercial quantities of controlled drugs is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for importing and attempting to possess marketable quantities of border controlled drugs is 25 years' imprisonment.

The man faced the Melbourne Magistrates' Court yesterday and was remanded.

AFP Acting Commander Investigations Raegan Stewart said this arrest was a fine example of the strength of Commonwealth and state law enforcement agencies working together to disrupt and dismantle criminal syndicates attempting to import harmful illicit substances into our communities.

"The AFP, together with our Commonwealth, state and international partners remain committed to identifying, dismantling and prosecuting these criminal syndicates. The man's arrest sends a strong message to illicit organised criminal groups," Acting Commander Stewart said.

"Intercepting illicit drugs before they hit the streets assists in reducing strain on hospitals and deaths in our community. We are determined to prevent this serious harm to the Australian community."

Victoria Police Crime Command Commander Mick Frewen said the ongoing partnership between Victoria Police, the AFP and the Australian Border Force continues to yield outstanding results.

"Our combined reach will continue to impact drug supply chains and hold offenders to account, no matter where they are," said Commander Frewen.

"The focus we share on drug traffickers, their wealth and their criminal connections is unwavering and designed to deliver maximal pressure to distort their offending environments"

ABF Assistant Commissioner South and Enforcement Operations James Watson said the arrest is a significant outcome for the Victorian community.

"This result highlights Australia's law enforcement agencies' ongoing commitment to holding offenders accountable for their criminal actions. The ABF will continue to work closely with its partners to actively target and disrupt those who attempt to bring illicit drugs into Victoria."

The AFP's High Volume Drug Crime Team seeks to focus investigations on recidivist drug importation syndicates that are seeking to exploit the international mail and parcels post system to import illicit drugs into Australia. Joint Taskforce Icarus comprises members of the AFP, Victoria Police and ABF and investigates high-volume drug importation and trafficking offences in the Victorian jurisdiction.

Note to media:

Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.

  • For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
  • Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online at www.counsellingonline.org.au.
  • For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to www.turningpoint.org.au.

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