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A MAN who allegedly imported more than 160 kilograms of cocaine by air freight into Melbourne last year has been arrested in Darwin.

The Australian Federal Police believes the man had been sending encrypted communications about the alleged cocaine shipment – valued at $40 million – imported by air from Hong Kong to Melbourne via Sydney.

The drug consignment was concealed inside a shipment of air filters which arrived in May last year, which was quickly intercepted by AFP investigators.

The man was the subject of an Interpol Red Notice. He was living offshore in 2021 and arrived in Darwin on Wednesday this week after being deported by Turkish authorities.

AFP alleges the man was linked to a transnational criminal syndicate operating out of Hong Kong and Turkey.

Five other people were arrested in Australia in May last year under the Operation Ironside South-Britannic, which linked the man to the criminal syndicate.  

The alleged offender has been a target of the AFP-led Transnational Offshore Disruption Taskforce, known as Operation Gain, since 2021.

“Operation Gain harnesses the AFP’s extensive international network, sophisticated capabilities, and Australian law enforcement partners, such as the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission,” AFP assistant commissioner crime command Nigel Ryan said.

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Commissioner Ryan said this is the first time AFP has publicly revealed the existence of the taskforce, which targets Australia’s largest organised crime threats offshore and disrupts their criminal activities.

“The AFP has been working to build a brief of evidence against the man since mid-last year,” commissioner Ryan said.

“This process is complex and there are legal processes in Australia that take time.

“When it comes to this alleged offender, we have been patient and thorough, and we have done what the AFP does best – we have used our capability, intelligence and international networks to ensure we have a warrant and a finalised brief of evidence so the alleged offender can face the justice system.”

Commissioner Ryan said the arrest should serve as a warning to Australians “who think they can hide offshore in perceived safe havens peddling drugs into Australian communities, destroying lives and making huge profits”.

The man has been living offshore since 2016. The AFP believes the man moved overseas to avoid the scrutiny of Australian law enforcement.

The man was scheduled to appear in Darwin court yesterday. The AFP said it would apply to extradite the man to Victoria to face two charges for allegedly importing the cocaine. Each offence carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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