A NORTH Sydney man was sentenced to 13 years and seven months’ imprisonment – with a non-parole period of eight years and two months – for importing about 552 kilograms of cocaine concealed in banana pulp.

The man was sentenced in the Sydney District Court on 9 December 2022 after pleading guilty on 29 April to importing cocaine.

Banana pulp covering cocaine. Image: AFP

The joint investigation between the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) began in September 2020 and identified the man’s role in importing the cocaine into Sydney.

The examination of the consignment from Brazil which contained about 2000 boxes of fruit pulp was prompted by US HSI intelligence.

ABF officers closely examined 275 boxes of banana pulp within the consignment and identified bags of cocaine hidden inside.

The cocaine totalled about 552 kilograms. Police estimate its value to be $248 million.

A controlled delivery of the shipment took place and over a two-week period, police observed the man collecting and searching through the banana pulp to remove the cocaine.

The man was later arrested in October 2020 for his role in the import.

Inspector ABF Investigations NSW Josh Clark said officers were ready and waiting for the shipment in what was a textbook demonstration of global co-operation between law enforcement agencies.

“The ABF continues to work closely with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to identify criminal syndicates attempting to circumvent border controls,” Inspector Clark said.

“International collaboration such as this demonstrates our resolve in protecting the Australian community, regardless of the methods employed to disguise or hide illicit substances within legitimate cargo and goods.

“This operation and successful prosecution is a credit to officers from all agencies, both within Australia and abroad, who continue to detect and disrupt the importation of illegal drugs.”

AFP Senior Constable Anthony Challita said no one person could import this amount of cocaine into Australia alone.

“You can guarantee that behind every large-scale importation of illicit drugs there is an organised crime syndicate pulling the strings,” Sen-Constable Challita said.

“The intelligence we receive and share with our international law enforcement partners is integral to identifying members of organised crime syndicates and stopping their supply of harmful drugs from reaching our communities.”