Two Sydney men charged over 314kg heroin import

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Editor's Note: Stills of the seized drugs in Thailand and footage of the arrest in Edensor Park are available for download.

Two Sydney men – including a man the Australian Federal Police allege is one of the nation's most significant organised crime threats – have been charged with significant drug offences.

A man, 38, designated as an Australian Priority Organisation Target (APOT), allegedly conspired with another man, 41, using encrypted communication platforms – including AN0M – to import about 314 kilograms of heroin from Thailand to Australia.

Both men were charged this evening (18 November 2021), after search warrants were executed at homes in Edensor Park and Cambridge Park.

During the search warrants, police seized a number of items that will be the subject of further forensic examination.

The AFP will allege the 38-year-old Edensor Park man and 41-year-old Cambridge Park man used encrypted communications to plan the heroin importation.

The men are scheduled to appear in Central Local Court today (19 November 2021). 

The Edensor Park man is charged with:

  • Conspire to import into Australia, a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely heroin, contrary to section 307.1(1), by virtue of section 11.5(1), of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Unauthorised possession of two prohibited weapons, namely a knuckle duster and a butterfly knife, contrary to section 7 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW);
  • Possession of a prohibited substance, namely MDMA, being a trafficable quantity of prohibited substance, contrary to section 25(1) of the Drug Misuse and trafficking Act 1985 (NSW); and
  • Failed to comply with a court order, issued under section 3LA(2) of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth), contrary to section 3LA(5) of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth);

The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment, 14 years' imprisonment, 10 years' imprisonment and five years' imprisonment, respectively.

The Cambridge Park man is charged with conspire to import into Australia, a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely heroin, contrary to section 307.1(1), by virtue of section 11.5(1), of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

As part of Operation Ironside, investigators executed a search warrant at the home of the Cambridge Park man on 6 June, 2021. During the search warrant, several encrypted communication devices were seized.

On 5 July 2021, the Thailand Customs Authority examined an outgoing sea cargo container destined for Queensland, leading to the discovery of 314 kilograms of heroin.

It is alleged the heroin was hidden within 135 of 270 paint drums in the container. It was concealed in yellow box-shaped objects, wrapped in plastic packing tape. Each object located within the drums weighed about 2.4 kilograms.

On 16 July 2021, the AFP executed a search warrant at a residence in Pyrmont linked to the 38-year-old man. Police seized several encrypted communication devices, a knuckle duster, a butterfly knife and a small amount of MDMA.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) was able to provide intelligence highlighting the significance of the APOT network in this matter. This provided AFP with opportunities to advance targeting upon the APOT organisation members.

The AFP will allege in court that evidence collected during the Sydney search warrants indicates that the Thai heroin seizure, worth an estimated street value of $117 million, was an importation arranged by the two Sydney men.

It will be alleged that a thorough examination of communications on encrypted devices used by the men over the past eight months allowed AFP investigators to confirm their real identities and link them to criminal offences associated with the attempted importation.

AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Eastern Command Kirsty Schofield said Australian Priority Organisation Targets included individuals and syndicates classified by the ACIC as the nation's most significant crime threats.

"The majority of APOTS have moved offshore, but in the past two years, the AFP has worked with overseas law enforcement to arrest one of these priority targets, plus carried out coordinated action against another two targets – and their organisations – that have crippled their ability to target Australia with large-scale or frequent drug importations," acting Assistant Commissioner Schofield said.

"The AFP leverages off its significant networks and partnerships overseas to reach these serious criminals who are trafficking multiple tonnes of drugs to Australian each year. One by one, the AFP and its partners will build the intelligence and evidence against these criminals and bring them to justice.

"Transnational serious organised crime continues to attempt to send heroin through our borders to make money off the misery they peddle. The AFP and its law enforcement partners in Australia and overseas will continue to disrupt the activities of criminal groups acting across international borders, and protect our community from these harmful substances.

"Recent ACIC wastewater reporting indicates a continued high consumption of heroin in Victoria capital city areas and NSW regional sites.

"The popularity of heroin may not be as pronounced as methamphetamine or cocaine, but even small doses of heroin can have a deadly impact on vulnerable Australians."

ACIC A/g Executive Director Intelligence Operations Robert Jackson said the result from this operation again highlights the importance of a joint agency approach in tackling organised crime and keeping drugs from causing further harm to our community.

"We continue to coordinate operational activities with AFP and our national and international partner agencies to cause maximum global and local disruption of APOT networks. Over the past year, the APOT strategy continued to see significant levels of cooperation
between law enforcement and offshore partners," he said.

Mr Wichai Chaimongkhon, Secretary-General Thailand Office of the Narcotic Control Board said: "we are pleased to work with the AFP on this investigation and bring about a result that has disrupted a transnational organised crime group using and exploiting both of our countries for their own profit."

Taskforce Storm is a joint operational agreement between the Australian Federal Police and law enforcement agencies in Thailand – the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Royal Thai Police, the Department of Special Investigations, and the Anti-Money Laundering Office. Taskforce Storm incorporates joint investigations and intelligence exchange to combat transnational organised crime, including drug trafficking, money laundering, firearms trafficking and serious fraud.

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