Trio arrested in Philippines allegedly linked to Australian drug hauls

Trio arrested in Philippines allegedly linked to Australian drug hauls

Editor’s note: Photographs and audio grabs from AFP Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins available via Hightail

Three alleged members of a transnational crime syndicate linked to the importation of almost two tonnes of illicit drugs into Australia have been arrested in the Philippines, after an international investigation.

AFP officers in Manila have provided intelligence to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) since last year and sought assistance about alleged connections to Australian methamphetamine and cocaine import investigations.

A PDEA operation allegedly identified several suspects and two premises in Manila linked to four consignments seized in Australia in the past 18 months. The shipments sent from the Philippines totalled 1.5-tonne of methamphetamine and 450 kilograms of cocaine.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency led the execution of search warrants at the two Manila properties last month (18 November 2022) and allegedly found a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory inside one of the properties.  

Investigators seized about 22 kilograms of suspected methamphetamine, 770 grams of cocaine, precursor chemicals, drug-making equipment, mobile phones, several identification cards and financial documents from the properties.

Three men - a French national, aged 41; a Canadian, aged 33; and a Filipino, aged 42 - were arrested and later charged by the PDEA with serious drug offences.

PDEA put the value of the methamphetamine seized at about 149,600,000 million Philippine pesos, which is almost $4 million Australian dollars.

The intelligence provided by the AFP was developed as a result of drug shipment seizures in New South Wales since August 2021, where the drugs were hidden in a variety of industrial machinery.

The methamphetamine seized in Australia could have been sold as about 15 million street level deals, while the cocaine could have been broken down into about 450,000 individual deals.

By ensuring those drugs seized in NSW did not reach the Australian community, the AFP and partners saved the community about $903 million in drug-related harm, including associated crime, healthcare and loss of productivity.

AFP Senior Officer in Manila, Detective Superintendent Andrew Perkins, congratulated the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on the significant outcome in Manila.

“Organised crime groups may think they can avoid police scrutiny when they operate across multiple countries – but they are wrong,” Det-Supt Perkins said. “This operation again highlights how law enforcement agencies share intelligence across borders to cause maximum damage to these transnational criminal networks.

“Illicit drug use in Australia bankrolls dangerous and brutal criminals who undermine our national security and our economy and make our suburbs and roads less safe.

“The Australian Federal Police has members in 33 countries around the world and we will continue to use our international networks to ensure drug syndicates do not profit at the expense of our communities.”

Det-Supt Perkins said investigations into the alleged network responsible for the drug trafficking were ongoing, as were inquiries into where the drugs had originated.

A PDEA spokesperson alleged the men charged were linked to Mexican, Australian and Canadian drug trafficking groups.

“Transnational drug syndicates damage the safety and economy of any country they operate in,” the PDEA spokesperson said. 

“We will allege this group was manufacturing methamphetamine in a residential neighbourhood without any regard for the welfare of children and adults living nearby. 

“We will not allow the Philippines to be a safe haven for criminals; we are working with our international partners to make our country a hostile place for anyone involved in the illicit drug trade.”

The men have been charged in the Philippines with:

  • One count of manufacture of dangerous drugs, contrary to section 8 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (PH). THe offence carrise a penalty of life imprisonment;
  • One count of possession of dangerous drugs, contrary to section 11 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Ph). The offence carries a penalty of life imprisonment; and
  • One count of possessing equipment, instruments, apparatus and other paraphernalia for dangerous drugs, contrary to section 12 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Ph). The offence carries a maximum penalty of four years’ imprisonment.
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