THE AUSTRALIAN Federal Police and its partners have prevented up to 49 tonnes of illicit drugs from entering the country during joint operations and investigations over the past financial year.

Police said about 29 tonnes of illicit drugs and precursors seized were recorded as being directly linked to an Australian crime group or likely to be sent to Australia.

AFP Commander International Engagement Andrew Smith said the AFP, working together with its international law enforcement partners offshore, had prevented up to 49 tonnes of harmful illicit drugs from reaching Australia.

“The AFP is incredibly proud to collaborate with its international law enforcement partners, to stop transnational criminal syndicates profiting from these harmful drugs,” Commander Smith said.

“Transnational serious organised crime (TSOC) groups are driven by money and power and have no regard for the harm illicit substances inflict on our community. We remain committed to tackling the illicit drug supply chain.”

Commander Smith said with more than 29 tonnes of methamphetamine seized during the financial year, the drug remained a major concern to Australian law enforcement.

“The AFP cannot overstate the amount of harm that 29 tonnes of methamphetamine could have caused to the community if it had not been intercepted by law enforcement,” Commander Smith said.

“On average, close to 12,000 Australians are hospitalised from methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin use every 12 months.

Mexico, Canada, New Zealand and the US, recorded the largest seizures of illicit drugs bound for Australia.

Commander Smith said Australia remained an attractive target for TSOC, with a majority of the nation’s most significant organised crime threats based offshore.

“Commitment to working in collaboration with international policing partners is critical in delivering AFP outcomes against Australia’s TSOC threats internationally,” Commander Smith said.

“A strong example of our close operational and strategic engagement is the collaboration Turkish National Police and the AFP have developed through the planned and deliberate engagement strategy of Operation Gain.

“Turkish National Police recently took action that led to the arrest of more than three dozen organised crime figures, including at least 15 with significant links to Australia.

“Some of our biggest criminal targets are operating internationally. The 49 tonnes of illicit drugs is a staggering amount seized and there is no question that Australia would have been a likely target for a large quantity of those drugs.