Two more Australians arrested in connection to international $301m MDMA bust

This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Queensland Police Service, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and National Police of the Netherlands.

Editor’s note:

Two more Australians have been arrested and charged in connection to a major joint international MDMA drug investigation originating in the Netherlands in 2019.

The Sydney men were arrested by AFP investigators on Wednesday (28 April, 2021) as part of Operation Parazonium.

The pair were yesterday (Thursday 29 April, 2021) extradited from New South Wales to face charges in Queensland. The men are expected to appear before the Brisbane Magistrates today (Friday 30 April, 2021).

Since 2019, the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF), working with the National Police of the Netherlands (NPN) Criminal Investigations Division, have arrested 13 people, including the two Sydney men, as part of this operation.

The pair are accused of being members of an Australian-based criminal syndicate who attempted to take possession of 150kg of MDMA in Queensland on 30 October 2019.

The men - a 46-year-old Lilyfield man and a 19-year-old Summer Hill man - were arrested following search warrants at their residential properties in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Investigators allege the two men travelled from Sydney to Queensland in October 2019 to meet with a representative of a Netherlands-based criminal syndicate to acquire the illicit drugs.

The duo have been charged with serious drug offences, including attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

In 2019, 10 people were arrested by authorities offshore in the Netherlands and Belgium, along with a 50-year-old Sydney woman.

The Australian woman was later extradited from New South Wales to Queensland to face serious drug and proceeds of crime charges.

In total, authorities seized 850 kilograms of crystalline MDMA and 548 litres of MDMA oil from locations in the Netherlands and Belgium under Operation Parazonium.

This amount of MDMA had an estimated street value of AUD $301.6 million. While this quantity of drugs had the potential to be processed into over 15 million MDMA tablets in Australia.

The two men are expected to appear before the Brisbane Magistrates’ Court today (Friday 30 April, 2021). They will face the following charges:

  • Attempt to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.5 by virtue of section 11.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth).
  • Dealing in proceeds of crime etc. – money or property worth $100,000 or more, contrary to section 400.4(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment.

The Queensland JOCTF comprises of members from the Australian Federal Police, Queensland Police Service (QPS), Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), AUSTRAC and Department of Home Affairs.

AFP Detective Superintendent Helen Schneider described the arrests of the men as a significant win in the fight against the international illicit drug trade.

“Transnational organised crime networks pose a significant threat to Australia’s economy, our security and our way of life,” Detective Superintendent Schneider said.

“They see Australia as a lucrative market to target because of the high demand for drugs and the high prices users will pay.

“They do not care about the harm and violence those substances bring, or the damage they do to our communities.

“Today’s arrests should serve as a fresh warning to organised criminals abroad and onshore, our investigators never give up. Two years may have passed since the original arrests in 2019, but we have continued to target and identify those involved throughout a global pandemic and today we put these men before the court to answer these charges.”

Detective Superintendent Col Briggs from the Queensland Police Service’s Drug and Serious Crime Group said the QPS would continue working closely with law enforcement partners in targeting organised crime and stopping the distribution of dangerous drugs into the community.

“QPS officers have worked tirelessly on this investigation, alongside our QJOCTF partners, with today’s outstanding result the outcome of these strong law enforcement partnerships,” Detective Superintendent Briggs said.

ABF Commander Operations Chris Waters noted the benefits of partnerships with law enforcement agencies both nationally and internationally.

“The ABF’s technical expertise in detections is enhanced by joint collaboration and leveraging intelligence held by law enforcement agencies both in Australia and overseas,” Commander Waters said.

National Police of the Netherlands (NPN) Chief Constable (Commander) Andy Kragg, Deputy Head National Criminal Investigations Division commended the joint international effort.

“A great result by Australian law enforcement. By continuously and relentlessly targeting key players, through international collaboration, we demonstrate how we can dismantle these international criminal networks, no matter how long it takes. As trusted partners we are in it for the long run, so at the end nobody is untouchable.”

AUSTRAC National Manager Jon Brewer said this outcome shows how AUSTRAC’s specialist financial analysis plays a unique but critical role in law enforcement investigations.

“Criminals looking to acquire illicit drugs should know that AUSTRAC is highly focussed on using financial intelligence to detect and disrupt such behaviour.”

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