Victorian criminal syndicates targeted under AFP-led Operation Ironside

Special Operation Ironside - smashing criminal networks

UPDATE: Images and vision from this operation can be downloaded via Hightail.

46 alleged offenders have been arrested, over half a tonne of illicit drugs intercepted, numerous weapons seized, more than $13 million of ill-gotten wealth in the form of cash, property, luxury cars and other luxury items, restrained and five murder plots disrupted in Victoria under the Australian Federal Police’s Operation Ironside.

Operation Ironside South has charged individuals in Victoria who law enforcement allege are linked to Australian-based mafia, Middle Eastern Organised Crime figures, outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) and transnational serious organised criminals.

AFP investigators, tactical teams, forensics specialists, support staff and with the immense support of Victorian Police executed almost 70 warrants across the state on 1-8 June. During this rolling activity almost $1.2 million in cash, loaded firearms, drugs, mobile phones and luxury vehicles were seized.

More warrants are expected to be executed in the coming days in Victoria, the rest of Australia and offshore under a coordinated global response connected to Operation Ironside.

The AFP’s covert, three-year operation was enabled when the AFP developed world-leading capability to unscramble encrypted communications. The encrypted communications were decrypted from an app that was covertly run by the FBI.

In Victoria, Operation Ironside South-Apollo, a joint law enforcement operation led by Victoria Police with assistance from the AFP National Anti-Gangs Squad (NAGS), resulted in the mass disruption of the Comancheros OMCG with more than 20 arrests made, including several high-ranking Victorian members and associated Middle Eastern Crime figures.  

While an alleged Australian-based organised criminal syndicate accused of conspiring to import more than 1.2 tonnes of methamphetamine and cocaine into Victoria was taken out, with seven arrests including the accused ringleader of the onshore operation in IRONSIDE SOUTH-ANDIAMO.

And a high-priority criminal target accused of coordinating and masterminding separate largescale illicit drug import were also arrested as part of IRONSIDE SOUTH-DIDYMA.

Additionally, Operational Ironside intelligence led to the disruption and prevention of credible threats of violence by OMCGs across the state on at least five occasions.

AFP Southern Command Assistant Commissioner Bruce Giles said Operation Ironside had opened the door to an unprecedented level of collaboration between law enforcement both across the nation and around the globe.

“Thanks to Operation Ironside, the AFP, together with significant collaboration from Victoria Police, had taken a wrecking ball to the criminal environment attempting to operate across Victoria,” he said.

Assistant Commissioner Giles said Operation Ironside would potentially clean out a significant portion of the Comancheros Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, and derail Australian organised criminal syndicates seeking to import illicit drugs.

“This is an historic moment for law enforcement agencies around the world using this platform to target, identify and disrupt the alleged criminal operations of 46 people in this state alone.

“Thanks to our teams processing more than 22 million text messages on this platform, we have prevented significant harm to the community – including credible threats of violence and threats to life.

“Operation Ironside should serve as the strongest warning to criminals yet – we will continue to be relentless in our pursuit to target and disrupt your illicit operations and to bring you to justice.”

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said:

“Serious and organised crime has been dealt a hammer blow in Victoria this week and criminals who think they are above the law should rightly be feeling nervous

“We make no apologies for putting relentless pressure on these criminal groups and the international nature of this operation really highlights the joint focus of law enforcement agencies across the world.

“Illegal firearms, drugs and unexplained wealth remain cornerstones of serious and organised crime, which makes it especially satisfying for us that we have also been able to undertake a number of significant seizures as part of this operation.

“Victoria Police sees first-hand the devastation this offending causes our community, so I want to ensure everyone that while criminals continue to find new ways to offend, law enforcement will also be evolving to find new ways to catch them and hold them to account.”

For more information relating to Operation IRONSIDE please view the national media release here.

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.

Media enquiries:

AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297

Further links:

National Security Hotline

Read the AFP Annual Report 2020-21

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation

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