A MAN has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment over his role in a plan to smuggle 18 kilograms of cocaine into Australia in air cargo.

Authorities intercepted the drugs when they arrived in South Australia from Greece in 2020. The man had attempted to collect the consignment from a freight forwarding business.

Thanks to intelligence obtained during so-called Operation Ironside, the Australian Federal Police foiled the plan to smuggle the drugs into Australia inside two welding machines. 

The AFP alerted the Australian Border Force to select the consignment for examination, and an x-ray of the welding machines revealed anomalies in the cargo.

ABF officers removed a panel from one piece of machinery and found an electronic safe.  

A safe was also found inside the second welder with each holding nine rectangular packages that contained a white powder. 

Forensic testing confirmed the packages contained about 18 kilograms of cocaine, with an almost 80% purity. 

An Adelaide man in 2022 pled guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and on Monday (26 February 2024) was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. 

The cocaine was worth an estimated $7 million. 

AFP detective acting superintendent Rodger Braun said the amount of cocaine could have been sold to 20,000 people on the street.

“We prevented these drugs from reaching our community and also stopped about $7 million going into the pockets of those involved in this illegal venture,” detective acting superintendent Braun said. 

Inquiries by the AFP found the man had been engaged to receive the consignment, including sending more than $8000 to a business in Athens and initially arranging for the machines to be delivered to his former workplace without the knowledge of the business owners. 

He then set up a fake company and changed the delivery address to his home.  

The man attempted to collect the consignment from a freight forwarding business, where he was told it had been seized by authorities. 

When police executed a search warrant at the man’s inner-city Adelaide home in September 2020, they seized electronic devices and documentation connected to the consignment.