Thursday 22nd Nov, 2018

Two arrested in connection with sea-cargo drug smugglers

Photo: Ingram Publishing
Photo: Ingram Publishing

TWO people have been arrested in Europe for allegedly being involved in supplying drugs to a global crime syndicate that was smashed last year for smuggling drugs and tobacco.

Operation Astatine began in early 2016 to investigate alleged activities of a New South Wales-based drug and tobacco smuggling network.

The investigation lead to the arrest of nine people in Australia and one in Dubai for their alleged roles in conspiring to import about 200 kilograms of MDMA and tobacco via sea cargo.

Over the course of the investigation, the NSW Joint Organised Crime Group (JOCG) identified the Netherlands as the source of the MDMA, and the information was relayed to the National Police of the Netherlands (NPN).

Late last week, NPN arrested two Dutch men, 36 and 37, for their alleged roles in supplying 197 kilograms of MTMA to the Australian syndicate smashed by Operation Astatine.

AFP acting manager organised crime acting Commander Krissy Barrett congratulated Dutch authorities for their recent success and thanked them for their assistance throughout the Australian investigation.

“This is just one example of our strategy to attack these high-end criminal networks and cripple all elements of their supply chain,” acting Commander Barrett said.

“Our impact is strongest when action is taken not only in Australia, but also with our international partners on a global level, to sever the ties of these crime networks at the source.”

NSWPF organised crime squad commander Detective Acting Superintendent Damien Beaufils said strong relationships and international co-operation in law enforcement and intelligence is now more important than ever.

“Given the transnational nature of organised crime, the only way we can effectively target their illicit activities is through a collaborative international approach,” he said.

“We regularly share information with our law enforcement partners across the globe, which enables us to target any crime in any location that may impact on the people of NSW.”

ABF Commander Investigations Graeme Grosse said working together with domestic and international partners had again led to a great result.

“The ABF would like to commend the Dutch authorities for their continued work dismantling this particular international syndicate and bringing those involved before the courts.” Commander Grosse said.

AUSTRAC acting National Manager Intelligence Michael Tink said that Operation Astatine was a great example of intelligence agencies working with law enforcement to fight international drug trafficking.

“AUSTRAC’s role in this operation was to follow the money. We utilised our intelligence resources to identify new links and associations of syndicate members to support our law enforcement partners with the investigation,” Mr Tink said.

The NSW JOCG is a multi-agency taskforce comprising members from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), NSW Police Force (NSWPF), Australian Border Force (ABF), Department of Home Affairs (DHA), NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).

In August of last year, an ABF officer and a former Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officer were charged with allegedly using their positions to assist an international criminal syndicate. The operation that nabbed the officers was carried out in tandem with Operation Astatine.

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