A MAN is facing court in Sydney for his role in a “failed venture” to import 1.2 tonnes of cocaine from Ecuador into Australia by transferring the drugs between vessels at sea.

The plot was discovered by the Australian Federal Police during Operation Ironside. The covert operation targeted criminal syndicates using an encrypted communications platform.

The dedicated Operation Ironside East-Alicanto was launched in April last year to investigate suspected members of a multi-national organised crime syndicate involved in multiple ventures.

One of the ventures involved importing cocaine using a transfer between ships at sea. The cocaine shipment was scheduled to arrive in Australia in June 2021.

Police will allege the 36-year-old man from Griffith, NSW gave $120,000 to Sydney-based associates on behalf of the syndicate.


The cash was allegedly used to pay a crew of men to collect the cocaine from a vessel at sea and transport it back to the NSW coast.

A number of other men have been charged in relation to the cocaine smuggling venture.

AFP officers sized encrypted devices, clothing, luggage, jewellery and weapons while executing a search warrant last month in Tharbogang, near Griffith.

AFP Commander eastern command investigations Kate Ferry said police are still chasing leads one year on from Operation Ironside and “will not hesitate to continue to lay criminal offences”.

“The AFP is relentless in its pursuit to stop transnational serious organised criminals who flood Australia with drugs and weapons, and who wash billions of dollars through the Australian economy,” Ms Ferry said.

“While the focus is often on the principals of these criminal groups, it is vitally important to bring to account those who act as facilitators, as is alleged with this matter.”

The man is scheduled to face Sydney Central Local Court today, 29 June, where he will be charged with dealing in proceeds of crime.

The maximum penalty for this offence is 20 years’ imprisonment.