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Earlier this year, Operation Phobetor began investigations into a criminal syndicate suspected to be involved in drug smuggling.

The operation is run by a joint squad combining the NSW Police Force (NSWPF), Australian Federal Police (AFP), and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) – in partnership with Australian Border Force (ABF), the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (UKNCA), and the United Kingdom Border Force (UKBF).

Their inquiries uncovered an airfreight consignment which was found to contain 125 kilograms of cocaine concealed within the base of an industrial generator. Police estimate the “street value” of the drugs to be $50 million.

Following inquiries, Organised Crime Squad detectives – assisted by Tactical Operations Unit, PolAir, and other specialist units – commenced a police operation at a property in Cawdor from 1700 Tuesday 19 July.

During that operation, two vehicles – including a Mercedes van and Pantech truck – left the property and travelled along the M7 before police attempted to stop both near Walgrove Road at Horsley Park.

Police alleged the driver of the truck rammed several police cars before both vehicles were stopped following a short pursuit.

The driver and passenger of the truck – two men aged 29 and 32 – as well as the driver of the van, a 29-year-old man, were all arrested and taken to local police stations.

Later that evening, detectives – assisted by Public Order Riot Squad – raided a property in Lane Cove.

Items and both vehicles have since been seized for forensic analysis.

A 29-year-old man and a 32-year-old man have since been charged with several offences related to drug smuggling and engaging in criminal activity. They were refused bail to appear at Fairfield Local Court on Wednesday (20 July).

A second 29-year-old man has been charged with similar offences.

He was refused bail to appear at Liverpool Local Court today (Wednesday 20 July 2022).

About the same time, officers attached to the UK’s NCA raided addresses in Rayleigh, Essex, South Ockenden, and Feltham, west London.

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A 29-year-old man was arrested in Wickford, Essex, a 43-year-old man was arrested in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, and a 42-year-old man was arrested in Romford, Essex.

All were held on suspicion of conspiracy to export a controlled drug and are now being questioned by NCA officers.

Acting ABF Commander Trade and Travel Operations East, Elke West, stressed the important role that strong law enforcement partnerships play in disrupting and dismantling criminal syndicates involved in the importation of border-controlled drugs.

“The ABF works tirelessly with its partners both here in Australia and internationally to ensure illicit drugs don’t reach our communities,” said A/g Commander West.

“This is another great result, and we will continue to work closely with our partners to detect and disrupt criminal efforts to circumvent our border controls.”​

Organised Crime Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said police will allege the men form part of a sophisticated network involved in the commercial supply of drugs across the globe.

“This was clearly a highly coordinated syndicate who have gone to extreme efforts both here and in Europe to ensure their shipment of drugs arrived uninhibited,” Det Supt Critchlow said.

“Our intelligence sharing capabilities both here and overseas has resulted in the complete devastation of this criminal enterprise – and the prospect of a lengthy prison term for each of those involved.”

NCA Branch Commander Lydia Bloomfield said: “Our investigation has targeted a network we suspect was providing a rare and highly sophisticated service to other organised crime groups.”

“A shipment of this quantity of cocaine from the UK to Australia is unusual but demonstrates the global scale of the class A drugs trade – which causes violence and intimidation throughout its supply chain.

“This operation has been planned and carried out alongside our partners including Border Force and New South Wales Police. We work closely with partners around the world to combat the highest risk organised crime threats.”

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