A 30-year-old man from Coomera (Queensland) and a 33-year-old Canadian national have been arrested and charged over their involvement in a criminal enterprise to import 645kg of MDMA into Australia.
The investigation has involved the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, the Cyprus Drug Law Enforcement Unit and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency.
Three search warrants were executed in Cyprus by the DLEU and two in the London areas of Ilford and Edmonton by the NCA as part of efforts to obtain evidence to identify those responsible for facilitating the importation.
Search warrants were executed in NSW at Bondi Junction, Surry Hills, Canley Heights and Tahmoor following the man’s arrest, while another was executed at Smeaton Grange. A premises in Brisbane, Queensland, was also searched.
Approximately $300,000 in cash was seized at the Bondi Junction and Canley Heights premises, while 3.5 kilograms of cocaine was also seized at Canley Heights.
The investigation began in early July, when Cyprus Police obtained information about the potential export of a large amount of drugs from Cyprus to Australia. The DLEU conducted an investigation in Cyprus and identified a suspicious consignment in a container that had already departed the port of Limassol for Sydney. This information was provided to the AFP through its international network.
ABF officers acted on this information and intercepted the container on 17 July 2019. It was found to contain 200 aluminium barbeques. Deconstruction of the barbeques revealed a large portion had false base plates, each concealing multiple packages of a brown crystalline substance. Forensic analysis determined the packages contained a total of 645kg of MDMA.
The drugs were seized by AFP and an investigation launched. Investigators replaced the MDMA with an inert substance and began a controlled delivery on 22 July 2019. The consignment was delivered to a warehouse in Matraville, where it sat for more than three months.
Beginning in late October, the barbeques were gradually transferred to another warehouse at Smeaton Grange. It will be alleged in court that the Coomera man travelled to Sydney at that time to remove the MDMA from some of the barbeques and prepare it for further distribution. The man has remained in Sydney for almost two months, and was arrested at a rented apartment in Bondi Junction on 16 December.
The Canadian man arrived in Sydney on 10 December and visited the warehouse at Smeaton Grange the next day. It will be alleged in court that he acted as a liaison for the criminal group responsible for importing the MDMA. He was arrested by AFP officers in Brisbane on 16 December.
The investigation remains ongoing and is expected to lead to further arrests.