Three Australians arrested in connection with Californian ice seizure worth $255 million

An international investigation between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has resulted in the arrest of three men in Australia and the seizure of 255 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine in California.

Police will allege the illicit substance, commonly known as ice, was destined for Australia, and has an estimated value of approximately $255 million if it had reached Australian streets.

The joint investigation began after the DEA received intelligence in January 2017, relating to a conspiracy to export drugs via a light aircraft from California to Australia.

On 15 June 2017, agents from the DEA Santa Rosa Resident Office conducted a search warrant on a storage facility in Northern California.

Approximately 255 kilograms of a white crystalline substance was located at the site, which presumptively tested positive for methamphetamine. The substance was seized, and investigations continued in Australia to locate the intended destination for the drugs.

Yesterday (19 July 2017) police apprehended the last of three people alleged to be connected with the importation. A 58-year-old man was arrested in the Victorian suburb of Sunshine.

This follows the arrest earlier this month of a 72-year-old man, apprehended at Melbourne Airport on 5 July 2017. Police will allege he was planning to fly the light aircraft back to Australia with the drugs.

Last Friday (14 July 2017) a 52-year-old Sydney man from Zetland, NSW, was stopped at Sydney International Airport. He was arrested in relation to his connection to a $2.4 million seizure of cash in Mildura in a prime mover which originated in Adelaide in April 2017.

All three men have been charged with the offence of conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.1 by virtue of 11.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The 52-year-old has been charged with a money laundering offence, contrary to section 400.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 in connection with Mildura seizure. This carries a maximum sentence of 25 years. The 72-year-old man and the 58-year-old man were also charged with money laundering offences, contrary to section 400.4 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 in relation to the purchase of the light aircraft. This offence carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

Additionally, the 52-year-old was charged with a second money laundering offence, contrary to section 400.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 in relation to the purchase of the aircraft. This offence carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

Superintendent Krissy Barrett said the close working relationship with the DEA was vital in the disruption of this illicit drug trade.

“Crystal methamphetamine is a serious threat to the Australian community, and the AFP is focused on continuing to work closely with both national and international partners to stop this drug making its way to the community.

“To successfully combat crystal methamphetamine in Australia, the AFP’s long-term strategy has been to target the offshore transnational organised crime syndicates targeting Australia and we cannot do this without the help of our international partners such as the DEA,” Superintendent Barrett said.

DEA Resident in Charge Sydney Office, Eric W. Baldus, said the US Drug Enforcement Administration operates under the knowledge that today's most effective criminal syndicates are sophisticated, well organised, and transnational in scope.

“As such, our strong partnerships with the AFP, and others within the international law enforcement community, are vital to our unified efforts in combating the world's most dangerous and prolific narcotics traffickers,” Resident Agent Baldus said.

“These arrests, in conjunction with the seizure of a significant amount of crystal methamphetamine in Santa Rosa, CA, are representative of the strength and effectiveness of our combined global policing strategies,” he said.

Investigations into this matter are continuing.

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