IRONSIDE: Trusted insider charged for alleged role in Melbourne cocaine importation

Op IRONSIDE

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A 55-year-old man faced Melbourne Magistrates' Court yesterday (Thursday 19 August 2021) for allegedly using his role as a trusted insider to aid the importation of more than 160 kilograms of cocaine into Victoria.

The Melbourne truck driver is the sixth person charged over the $40 million drug shipment, which was seized by Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force officers as a result of Operation Ironside before it could reach the community.

The AFP launched Operation IRONSIDE SOUTH-BRITANNIC after intercepting messages about a large-scale cocaine importation destined for Melbourne, via Sydney, from Hong Kong in late May 2021.

It is alleged a transnational criminal syndicate operating out of Hong Kong and Turkey was using encrypted communications to coordinate the shipment, estimated to be worth more than $40 million dollars, via an onshore criminal syndicate leader in Sydney.

AFP investigators, with assistance from ABF, were able to intercept the cocaine - which was concealed in air filters - when the consignment arrived in Melbourne on 31 May 2021.

The alleged Australian-based coordinator of the transnational organised crime syndicate, a 41-year-old Sydney man, and four Victorian men were charged in June (2021) over their alleged roles in the importation.

The 55-year-old man was charged yesterday (19 August 2021) with aiding and abetting the importation of a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to sections 11.2(1) and 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for this offence is imprisonment for life.

Police will allege that between 27 April and 4 June (2021), the man used his position as a truck driver to divert the attention of authorities and assist the alleged criminal syndicate leader with the planned cocaine importation.

AFP Southern Command Detective Superintendent Anthony Hall said police will continue to be relentless in the pursuit of anyone who uses their work or community position to enable drug trafficking or other criminal activities.

"The drugs these transnational organised crime syndicates are bringing into Australia are facilitated by trusted insiders whom abuse the access and influence they have available to them through their employment, such as the accused is alleged to have in this case," Detective Superintendent Hall said.

"That abuse of industry knowledge and access to the means to be able to perform a facilitation role as part of the criminal syndicate enables drugs to be sold on the streets of every major city and in our regional towns.

"The cumulative result of their insidious criminal activity is that drugs are sold to our children and people in our communities whom are vulnerable. Their actions increase the availability of illicit, harmful drugs that feed addiction, which fuels domestic and family violence, pushing our hospitals, police and welfare support services to breaking point.

"We are working closely with all our partners to bring to justice anyone who seeks to harm our communities."

ABF Acting Assistant Commissioner James Watson noted the impact when law enforcement agencies collaborate.

"The ongoing arrests speak to the far reaching impact of cross agency cooperation among law enforcement agencies," Assistant Commissioner Watson said.

"The ABF is working closely with the AFP and industry to identify and weed out those who seek to exploit their trusted position within the supply chain. My message to those people is simple: we have you in our sights."

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.

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AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297

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