TWO men are facing life in prison after they were arrested in Adelaide following the seizure of 139 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside a shipment of luxury buses.
The cocaine has a street value of $45 million.
The Victorian men, aged 22 and 19, were expected to face Port Adelaide Magistrates court on 5 February charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of cocaine.
The investigation, codenamed Operation Silkwood, began in January after intelligence identified an alleged importation of cocaine concealed within a consignment of 13 luxury buses on board an international cargo ship destined for Adelaide, via Perth.
Australian Border Force (ABF) officers conducted a search of the buses on 28 January after the ship arrived into Fremantle Harbour.
During the search, ABF officers found a number of packages in four of the buses.
A test of the packages returned a positive result for cocaine. The matter was subsequently referred to the AFP.
The buses were offloaded upon their arrival into Adelaide, with the ABF and South Australia Police coordinating during the operation.
On 3 February, the men allegedly forced entry into the buses and retrieved the consignment.
They were arrested in a hotel in Port Adelaide and charged. They were refused bail and remanded in custody.
They face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted.
AFP Detective Superintendent Melinda Adam said the AFP worked tirelessly with its partners to tackle criminal groups attempting to smuggle drugs into Australia.
“The AFP’s collaboration alongside its international and domestic partners is critical in combatting transnational serious organised crime,” D/Sup Adam said.
“To protect the Australian community, the AFP and its partners will continue to make Australia a hostile environment for transnational serious organised crime syndicates – both onshore and offshore.
“Unfortunately, Australia is viewed as a lucrative market for organised crime groups due to the comparatively higher prices for illicit substances – but the risks are high for transitional serious organised crime syndicates as Australian law enforcement cooperation has never been stronger.
“This seizure of the 139 kilograms of cocaine has stopped a potential 695,000 individual street deals from hitting our streets and causing significant harm to our communities and economy, with an estimated street value of $45 million.”
The AFP is additionally calling on the public to come forward with any information they may have about any unusual activity in or around the Port Adelaide or Mansfield Park areas on Friday, 2 February to Saturday, 3 February 2024.
“We urge anyone who noticed any activity or movement that appeared to be out of the ordinary in the Port Adelaide or Mansfield Park areas on Friday, 2 February or over the past few days, to please come forward and contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,” D/Supt Adam said.
“All information to Crime Stoppers can be reported anonymously.
ABF Superintendent Andrew Dawson said the arrests demonstrated how effectively the ABF and AFP’s close collaboration protected Australian communities.
“Cocaine shipments are being seized at the nation’s borders at unprecedented levels as Australia confronts a global surge in trafficking,” Superintendent Dawson said.
“Organised crime syndicates are relentless in their efforts to flood our shores with cocaine and their sole motivation is greed and profit, pure and simple.
“The ABF will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to defend Australia’s border, a critical national asset in the battle against criminal attempts to bring our communities harm.”