Three people will face Sydney courts today after 250 kilograms of cocaine destined for Sydney’s streets was intercepted by members of the multi-agency Joint Asian Crime Group (JACG).
The consignment is the fourth largest cocaine seizure in Australian history and has an estimated potential street value of $87.5 million.
A 50-year-old Hurstville man and two women from Allawah, aged 28 and 25, were charged with importing and attempting to possess a commercial quantity of cocaine.
The Hurstville man will also be charged with dealing with proceeds of crime worth $1 million or more under section 400.3 of the Criminal Code Act 1995.
The 28-year-old woman will appear in Sutherland Local Court today, while the other two people were refused bail to appear in Central Local Court today.
It will be alleged in court that the syndicate concealed the cocaine in one kilogram portions inside packets labelled as green tea. The packets were contained in 10 boxes inside a shipping container of furniture.
As a result of inquiries by JACG investigators, Customs officers inspected the shipping container upon its arrival in Sydney from South East Asia on Tuesday, 4 March and discovered the concealment.
Over the past week, JACG members monitored the delivery of the consignment to a factory warehouse in Auburn in Sydney’s west.
Yesterday, search warrants were executed throughout the day at nine locations in Hurstville, Allawah, Rockdale, Auburn, Glebe and the Sydney CBD, during which the two women were arrested. The 50-year-old man was arrested early yesterday afternoon in a Kogarah street.
JACG Coordinator Detective Chief Inspector John Lehmann said such a large seizure would have a significant impact on the availability of cocaine in Sydney.
"We believe this is the second-largest seizure of cocaine to be made in New South Wales, with the majority of this illicit drug destined for the local market.
"Our investigation began in January after information was received about money transfers totalling millions of dollars being made to accounts in South East Asia.
"As a result of ongoing inquiries, JACG officers seized $1.56 million in cash during the arrest of a 33-year-old man in Sydney’s CBD last month. He was charged with dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime and has appeared in Sydney’s Central Local Court.
"We will continue our work to target those people involved in the trafficking of illicit drugs into Australia and in particular New South Wales," Detective Chief Inspector Lehmann said.
"The strong collaboration between state and federal agencies was essential to the success of this operation, and such cooperation is vital to detecting and taking action against all drug importation and distribution activities."
The JACG is a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary unit comprising the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force, Australian Customs Service, the Australian Crime Commission and the NSW Crime Commission. The specialist expertise of its member agencies is used to target major organised criminal activity of Asian syndicates in NSW.
The maximum penalty for importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug is life imprisonment and/or an $825,000 fine.