South Australian criminal syndicates targeted under AFP-led Operation Ironside

Special Operation Ironside - smashing criminal networks

95 alleged offenders have been arrested, over 600 kilograms of illicit drugs intercepted, 30 firearms seized, almost $2 million in cash restrained and a number of murder plots disrupted in South Australia under Australian Federal Police Operation Ironside.

Operation Ironside has charged individuals in South Australia who law enforcement allege are linked to transnational organised crime syndicates and outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs).

The AFP and South Australia Police (SAPOL), supported by tactical teams, forensics specialists and support staff executed over 95 warrants from 7 June to 8 June 2021.

More warrants are expected to be executed in the coming days in South Australia, across the rest of Australia and offshore under a coordinated global response connected to Operation Ironside.

The AFP’s covert, three-year operation was enabled when the AFP developed world-first capability to unscramble encrypted communications.

The encrypted communications were decrypted from an app that was covertly run by the FBI.  

As part of global parallel law enforcement activity, over 95 coordinated operations were executed at the same time across South Australia.

In South Australia the AFP targeted senior members of a transnational organised crime syndicate with links to Europe, accused of importing and trafficking cocaine, methamphetamine and millions of dollars of cash.

Over the life of the investigation, the AFP has arrested 22 men on several charges, including importing and trafficking border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine and cocaine, as well as money laundering offences.

The joint AFP-SAPOL Operation aimed at causing mass disruption to the Comanchero OMCG, arrested 73 men, who it will be alleged several are high-ranking South Australian members.

In addition, Operation Ironside intelligence led to the disruption and prevention of credible threats of violence by OMCGs and organised crime groups across Australia on at least 21 occasions.

More than 30 firearms were also detected and seized by investigators in the state.

AFP Commander Central Erica Merrin said Operation Ironside represented an unprecedented level of collaboration between the AFP, South Australia Police and law enforcement across Australia and around the world.

“Thanks to Operation Ironside, the AFP, together with significant assistance from South Australia Police, has caused extensive damage to the criminal environment attempting to operate here in South Australia,” she said.

Commander Merrin said Operation Ironside has significantly disrupted Australia-based transnational organised crime groups seeking to import illegal, harmful drugs into the country, as well as exposed violent risk to the community by the Comanchero Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.

“Serious criminals have been stopped from devastating our community, in particular the young and vulnerable, by flooding our streets with drugs, guns, and violence. Importantly, law enforcement has also disrupted the laundering of illicit profits obtained from inflicting misery on society."

“This is an historic moment for law enforcement in Australia and around the world, using a supercharged tool to target, identify and disrupt the alleged criminal operations of 95 people in South Australia alone."

“The work of our teams in processing more millions of text messages on this platform, has prevented significant harm to the community – including credible threats of violence and threats to life."

“Operation Ironside should serve as the strongest warning to criminals yet – Australian law enforcement will continue to be relentless in our pursuit of organised crime and will bring those who take part in it to justice.”

South Australia Police Assistant Commissioner Crime Peter Harvey stated the searches and arrests in South Australia were a part of a much bigger global operation the likes of what we have never seen before.

“Following extensive international and Australia wide investigations, 95 people have been arrested in South Australia for a range of serious criminal offences. This will be one the most significant impacts upon organised crime in the World but also here in South Australia,” Assistant Commissioner Harvey said.

“This multi-agency, multi-disciplinary coordinated attack on organised crime will reassure the community that law enforcement is making a uniformed effort to stop the scourge of violent and serious and organised crime right here in South Australia.”

“Can I thank and praise the many law enforcement personnel who have been involved in this extraordinary operation who have put in many hours of dedicated and committed time to ensure that these investigations have resulted in such an unprecedented and outstanding success.”

Note to media:

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Further Links:

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2020-21

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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