Three arrested as part of international drug importation investigation

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Three men were arrested yesterday as part of a Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) investigation into the importation of cocaine into Melbourne.

A 39-year-old Spotswood man, 26-year-old Reservoir man and a 66-year-old Greek foreign national were all arrested by police on Tuesday.

The arrests followed the importation of approximately 45kg of cocaine hidden in a juke box from Greece, which was detected by Australian Border Force officers.

The consignment was collected and transported to a residential property in Sunshine North, when Victoria Police and Australian Federal Police members later made the arrests. 

Police yesterday searched two additional residential properties in Spotswood and Reservoir, and two commercial premises in Toorak and Kingsville.

They subsequently seized a number of items including two Mercedes-Benz vehicles, a Harley Davidson motorbike, luxury watches, jewellery and items of clothing, as well as various drugs and a significant quantity of cash.

The trio were interviewed by police and the 39-year-old Spotswood man and 26-year-old Reservoir man were subsequently charged with importation of a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs and attempted possession of a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs.

They faced Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, 22 June and were remanded in custody.

The 66-year-old Greek national was released pending further enquiries.

The arrests formed part of a four-month JOCTF investigation into the alleged importation of drugs by a Melbourne based organised crime syndicate.

Police believe the syndicate has been involved in previous border-controlled drug importations.

In total, about 45kg of cocaine has been seized as part of this investigation, which has a street value of approximately $20M.

The investigation remains ongoing.

Victoria Police Acting Detective Superintendent Andrew Stamper said these drugs had the potential to cause immense harm to the Victorian community.

“Victoria Police will continue to make it as difficult as possible for these syndicates to bring harm to Victoria.

“To be able to make these arrests and seizures highlights the continued local demand there is for a range of drugs. Ultimately, we really need to challenge attitudes around the use of illicit drugs in the community.

“We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who bring that harm to our state are held to account, and that these criminal syndicates are strongly and deliberately targeted.

“Our aim is to ensure we disrupt the organised crime syndicates responsible for these imports, so to charge two people as well as effecting these seizures is extremely satisfying.

“Those people now face substantial penalties here in Victoria if convicted.

“This is a significant outcome for the JOCTF and one that has only been achieved by the work being done in partnership by the state and Commonwealth agencies.”

AFP Detective Inspector Mark McKiernan said it was likely the illicit drugs would have been distributed across Victoria by criminals associated with serious organised crime.

“We will allege that the men arrested yesterday are significant syndicate members,’’ D/Inspector McKiernan said.

“We are sending a strong and clear message today to organised crime. We will not stop. We are coming after you.

“The AFP relentlessly disrupts and takes action against drug traffickers because illicit drugs make our roads and communities less safe. We will stay one step ahead.

“There is a perception by some in the community that cocaine is a safe drug. Let me be clear – it is not – and just as importantly, the transnational serious organised criminals who target Australia are also undermining our national security, economy and social security system.

“We also know drug trafficking can lead to drug wars in our streets and in source countries, and often law-abiding citizens can be the collateral damage to that violence.

“Illicit drug trafficking can also bankroll other abhorrent crimes, such as human trafficking and sexual servitude.”

ABF Superintendent Uriah Turner, Regional Investigations said the arrests resulting from this investigation are a great example of what law enforcement agencies working together achieve.

"Criminals attempting to conceal drugs and bring them into the country should remember what they are up against. The ABF has significant skill and technological capability in detecting drugs at the border, but when we share intelligence and collaborate with our law enforcement partners, there is a force to be reckoned with,"  Superintendent Uriah Turner said.  

The JOCTF consists of members of the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and Department of Home Affairs. 

Australia’s law enforcement agencies need the community’s ongoing assistance to minimise the harm caused by drugs, and urge anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or to submit at confidential crime report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

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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