A Global Drug Network Undone by International Investigation

A Global Drug Network Undone by International Investigation

6 men from Sydney, have been charged after millions of dollars in cash and drugs seized after a multi-agency police investigation into an international drug ring.

All of them have been arrested through the Operation Phobetor, which was launched in 2021, involving the NSW (New South Wales) Police State Crime Command, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, to target “serious organised crime” across the state.

Another man was arrested in Los Angeles as part of a joint operation with US homeland security. Police say there are still a number of Australian citizens at large overseas suspected of taking part in the trafficking.

NSW police said investigators had identified several transnational organised criminal networks working collaboratively to import illicit drugs from several countries into the state.

Officers intercepted and seized 220 kg of methylamphetamines in Los Angeles that was bound for Australia and 60 kg of cocaine believed to be from Germany at a Sydney freight depot that was concealed inside pieces of machinery as well as $960,000 in cash.

According to police, the cocaine is believed to have been sourced in Germany, would have been worth $50m to $60m on the streets.

Police raided 16 properties in Sydney in the early hours of Wednesday morning and seized a further $1.2m in cash that was stashed in sports bags.

A rifle, ammunition, gold bullion, cigarettes, cocaine, MDMA, cannabis, steroids, electronic devices, cryptocurrency wallets and documents are also seized which will go for the forensic examination.

Five men aged between 30 and 44 were arrested and face multiple charges including supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime. Two other men, aged 28 and 32, were arrested at 8.30am in Bankstown during a vehicle stop with police seizing a further $1.4m.

US Homeland Security Investigations officers arrested a 23-year-old LA man after they found 128 kg of methylamphetamine, 55 kg of crystal MDMA, 18 kg of cocaine and $US15,000 ($A22,345).

Detective Superintendent Peter Faux, from Operation Phobetor, said investigators were still looking into the activities of several Australian citizens overseas.

He added, “Unfortunately there are Australian citizens who do move offshore and they may think they’re untouchable by doing that. We look forward to speaking to them whether or not they choose to stay in those countries or they come back to Australia.”

Talking about the global network, “Organised criminal networks are usually notoriously competitive for control in the illicit drug trade; however, what we have seen through this operation and other intelligence is that some members are working collaboratively to bring drugs into our country. While the different methods of concealment aren’t new, it’s the level of involvement from various criminal syndicates to bring in shipments which is of note.”

An AFP commander, Kate Ferry, said the operation was an example of law enforcement at its best.

She said, “These criminals undermine our national security and our economy. They make our suburbs and roads less safe. The way Australians live will be changed if illicit drug use is not greatly reduced and if these serious criminals are not brought to justice.”

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