Sydney man nabbed over Australia’s largest heroin seizure in almost two decades

Heroin hidden in part of a vertical mixer

Editor's note: Vision of the arrest and seizure is available.

An Australian Federal Police-led operation has resulted in the arrest of a 29-year-old Sydney man yesterday (3 September 2021), charged in connection to Australia's largest heroin seizure in almost two decades.

The man will face Parramatta Local Court today (4 September 2021) following the record detection on 23 December 2020 of almost 350 kilograms of heroin.

This amount of heroin is worth an estimated $156 million dollars and equates to more than 1.1 million street deals.

The investigation into the importation of the illicit narcotics, which was found by Australian Border Force officers in a consignment of machinery, resulted in AFP and ABF officers, with assistance from NSW Police Criminal Groups and Strike Force Raptor investigators, executing search warrants at six Sydney properties yesterday.

The 29-year-old man was arrested at his home in the north Hornsby suburb of Mount Colah and charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

Search warrants were executed at three other residential addresses in Miller, Baulkham Hills, and Kings Park and two business premises in Hornsby yesterday.

The investigation was launched in December 2020 after ABF officers in Sydney found the heroin concealed inside a consignment of vertical mixers that arrived via air cargo from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

AFP investigators removed the illicit drugs, weighing 347.9 kilograms, and with assistance from ABF, delivered them to the destined address – a storage facility in Hornsby.

Police will allege that in February, the 29-year-old Mount Colah man collected the consignment of machinery and attempted to access the drugs.

Police spent the ensuing months conducting further enquiries to identify people and locations of interest, and continued gathering evidence to support a prosecution.

These enquiries resulted in yesterday's operational activity, with police seizing mobile handsets, knives, handcuffs and a small amount of testosterone.

The investigation into the criminal syndicate responsible for this importation and its potential distribution in Australia remains ongoing.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Morgen Blunden said this is the largest seizure of heroin in Australia in almost two decades and if these drugs had not been intercepted, the impact on the community would have been devastating.

"Illicit drug use causes a significant burden to the Australian economy, through crime, loss of productivity, emergency treatment and increased health care costs," Detective Acting Superintendent Blunden said.

"Sadly heroin causes many deaths and this seizure has protected our community from harm. We will continue to work closely with our partners to prevent this harm from occurring.

"This is why our partnerships with state and Commonwealth agencies are so important to staying on the front foot when it comes to targeting transnational criminal syndicates and preventing illicit drugs from harming more Australians."

ABF Acting Superintendent Enforcement Operations East Anthony Wheatley says these criminals clearly thought Christmas would be a good time to try to smuggle drugs into Australia, but this detection shows they were wrong.

"Our dedicated officers and investigators work 365 days a year to ensure dangerous drugs like heroin don't end up on our streets, destroying lives," Acting Superintendent Wheatley said.

"By working with our law enforcement partners, we've been able to make the biggest heroin detection in 20 years.

"This operation shows that no matter how much time has passed since an initial detection was made, those responsible will be found and prosecuted."

NSW Police Raptor Squad Detective Superintendent Jason Weinstein said the joint agency investigation once again highlighted the success of law enforcement agencies sharing intelligence.

"The effects of heroin and illicit drugs have a devastating impact on our communities and the size of this seizure cannot be understated.

"Make no mistake, lives have been saved as a result of this operation and police both state and federal will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to those bringing harm on others by importing illicit drugs.

"I encourage everyone to report suspected criminal activity to police," Detective Superintendent Weinstein said.

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