THE AUSTRALIAN Federal Police have charged four West Australians during an investigation into a transnational drug trafficking syndicate after 66 kilograms of cocaine was seized in Perth.
Operation Dommeldange was launched late last month when Australian Border Force officers allegedly found the cocaine hidden in four car tyres imported from Switzerland.
ABF officers at the Perth cargo facility detected anomalies when they x-rayed the air-cargo consignment. Further examination of the Mercedes-Benz performance wheels allegedly uncovered packages of white powder stuffed in behind the rims.
The consignment was transferred to the AFP and forensic specialists established there was 56 packages containing a total of about 66 kilograms of cocaine. Police estimate the haul is worth about $23.7 million.
The drugs were replaced with a harmless substance before the tyres were released for collection.
Police will allege the consignment was addressed to a Northbridge property but a person claiming to be the intended recipient instead arranged for a courier to deliver the tyres to a Nollamara residence on 5 July.
The consignment was stored in the garage for two days before a man and woman who live at the home, along with two other men, allegedly used a variety of tools and knives to cut apart the car tyres and access the black plastic-wrapped packages inside.
AFP investigators, with the assistance of ABF officers, raided the Nollamara residence on Friday and arrested the couple.
They raided a nearby Balcatta home, where they arrested two male residents and allegedly seized parts of one tyre with a knife stuck in it.
Australian Border Force Commander Operations West James Copeman said the ABF would continue to thwart the efforts of criminals at the border and stop them in their tracks.
“Our officers work tirelessly to stop illicit drugs for entering Australia, no matter where they may be concealed,” Commander Copeman said.
“The ABF knows about the creative ways criminals will use to attempt to smuggle illicit and prohibited goods into Australia. This is another great result, thanks to our close relationships with our partner agencies.”
AFP Western Command Detective Superintendent Graeme Marshall said organised crime syndicates used a never-ending variety of methods to try to smuggle large amounts of drugs into Australia without detection because it was such a lucrative business.
“This case is a warning to organised crime that Western Australia is not an easy target – the AFP is working closely with our partners to stop illicit drugs from reaching our communities and prosecute anyone who tries to profit at the public’s expense,” Detective Superintendent Marshall said.
ACIC Acting Executive Director Intelligence Operations Thomas Hester said: “Using our four pillars of core collection capabilities – coercive powers, technical intelligence, human intelligence and data analytics – we support our partners to make Australia a hostile place for criminal syndicates and to combat the supply of these dangerous drugs”.