THREE men have been arrested and charged over a plan to import more than half a tonne of crystal meth and cocaine worth over a quarter of a billion dollars into Australia.
Strike Force ‘Connaught 2’ was formed in 2016 to investigate a transnational organised crime syndicate in Sydney.
The strike force was made up of detectives from the NSW Police Force’s Organised Crime Squad, the NSW Crime Commission, and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
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With help from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and federal police, officers intercepted 313kg of methylamphetamine (ice) in Panama on Thursday, October 26.
The Central American country is bordered by Costa Rica to the west
The seizure was the largest single-seizure of ‘ice’ in Panamanian history.
Police allege the drugs, which have an estimated potential street value of $133 million, were destined for Australia.
During the investigation, officers also allegedly uncovered a conspiracy to import a further 300kg of cocaine worth $120 million into Sydney from South America.
Following inquiries, strike force detectives, with the assistance of the Tactical Operation Unit, arrested two men aged 60 and 64 at a warehouse in the inner-Sydney suburb of Alexandria, just before 11am yesterday.
They have both since been charged with “conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug”.
A short time after the first two men were arrested, a 37-year-old man was nabbed outside a home at Coogee.
He has since been charged with two counts of importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, and directing the activities of a criminal organisation.
The maximum penalty for import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs is life imprisonment.
All three men have been refused bail to appear at Waverley, Central, and Newtown Local Courts later today.
Following the arrests, strike force investigators raided five properties at Coogee, Lilyfield, Regents Park, Strathfield, and Zetland, where they seized more than $500,000 cash, ice, and a collection of mobile phones.
A 24-year-old woman was arrested at the Zetland property and charged with deal with property proceeds of crime.
She was granted strict conditional bail and will appear in Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday, January 11.
The investigation under Strike Force Connaught 2 is ongoing, both in NSW and internationally.
NSW Police Force’s Director of Crime Operations, Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Smith, said successful targeting of transnational organised crime relied on cohesive law enforcement partnerships.
“Over the past 12 months, NSW Police Force – in partnership and cooperation with local and international law enforcement and intelligence agencies – has uncovered some sophisticated attempts to bring narcotics through our borders and onto the streets of Sydney,” Det Ch Supt Smith said.
“Our joint investigations have ensured these attempts were only attempts; tonnes of these harmful substances have been seized and countless members of criminal syndicates arrested and put before the courts.
“International cooperation in law enforcement and intelligence is not new, but our relationships are stronger than ever, allowing us to reach across the globe to target any crime that may impact on the people of NSW.”
Police are urging anyone with information in relation to the importation or trafficking of illicit drugs to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.
The information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence.