SOUTH African police have arrested five men allegedly responsible for loading 100 kilograms of cocaine into the cargo hold of an aircraft bound for Sydney.

The Australian Federal Police seized the haul when it reached Australia and arrested five Sydney men in October 2023 for their role in the importation.

AFP had been investigating the matter since October last year after an airline reported suspicious activity near the cargo area of the aircraft in Johannesburg. The cocaine was smuggled in an air-freight container.

Australian police allege a Padstow man, 42, was the primary Australian facilitator of the criminal enterprise.

Police believe he liaised with someone in South Africa to source 100 kilograms of cocaine and have it placed on an aircraft.

Police will allege this man was also responsible for its onward distribution in Australia.

Evidence obtained by the AFP was passed via the AFP’s international liaison post in Pretoria to the South African Police Service (SAPS).

This information enabled investigations in South Africa into the circumstances by which the cocaine was loaded into a container on the international flight in October.

On 15 November 2023 SAPS investigators executed search warrants at five locations in Gauteng Province, arresting five men who allegedly had access to airside areas at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg through their employment with aircraft logistics providers.

These five men will now face charges in South Africa.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Stephen Dametto said AFP works with international law enforcement and takes decisive action against offshore criminal groups targeting Australia.

“Our role as an agency is to combat and disrupt organised crime impacting Australia, in turn keeping Australians safe,” Assistant Commissioner Dametto said.

“The arrests in South Africa are a direct result of the commitment, tenacity and agility of the AFP investigators and the International Post in Pretoria, and their hard work continues to deliver results that cripple the ability of organised crime to operate in Australia.”

Major General Ebrahim Kadwa, the provincial head of the directorate for Priority Crime Investigation in Gauteng, highlighted the co-operation between the AFP, the HAWKS Organised Crime Investigation and the prosecution team to combat transnational drug trafficking.

“The formidable collaboration and partnership between our two law enforcement agencies is generating spectacular and unprecedented operational results in pursuing transnational criminal enterprises involved in trafficking narcotics to Australia and key global markets,” Major General Kadwa said.

“The flushing out of airport employees that are key enablers has dealt a severe blow to organised crime.

“The HAWKS remain committed to continue collaborating with our Australian counterparts in dismantling major criminal enterprises.”

Australian police believe the cocaine haul could have been sold as 100,000 individual deals with an estimated “street value” of $40 million.