Thread: The Aus/NZ/Asian Drug Busts Mega-Thread Number Five

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    The Aus/NZ/Asian Drug Busts Mega-Thread Number Five 
    Australia & Asia Drug Discussion
    drug_mentor's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    Melbourne, Australia
    Continuation of the old thread.

    Originally Posted by hoptis View Post
    This is a thread to post news articles related to police seizures of illicit drugs, their precursors, manufacturing equipment and paraphernalia in Australia/New Zealand. This also includes any articles relating to the court outcomes or sentencing for a bust and crimes relating to prescription drugs. For extremely large busts, especially any that break existing Australian records for a drug, a new thread should be started.


    This includes posts:
    Bemoaning a seizure of drugs
    Contemplating whether a seizure will affect availability of a drug in a particular area
    Guessing at how long before police put the drugs back on the street

    Posts of this type will be removed.

    When posting articles please quote the full text of the article and a link to the source, also please check that it hasn't already been posted.

    Old thread is here
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    Apr 2011
    After spending months trying to infiltrate an underground website that made buying and selling recreational drugs nearly as easy as shopping online for a book or TV, half a dozen FBI agents shuffled into the science fiction section of a San Francisco library and grabbed a young man working on a laptop.
    Authorities say the man was San Francisco resident Ross William Ulbricht, and they accused him of being ‘‘Dread Pirate Roberts,’’ the once-anonymous mastermind behind the online drug marketplace known as Silk Road.
    Silk Road is the Amazon of the drug trade.
    Silk Road: ''the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet''.
    Ulbricht, who US authorities claim ran the ''Silk Road Hidden Website'' from January 2011 until last month, had called himself ''Dread Pirate Roberts'' or ''DPR,'' after a character in the 1987 film The Princess Bride. Before venturing into the illicit online retail business, which prosecutors described as ''the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet'' he spent more than five years as a student.
    The federal complaint accuses him of computer hacking, narcotics trafficking and money laundering. The government also said he spent $US150,000 on a hit man to try to get rid of a blackmailer who threatened to expose users of the site.
    The FBI said Ulbricht ran Silk Road from San Francisco, where he had been living for the past year, including at an internet cafe not far from his home. They said that since at least 2011, he has generated tens of millions of dollars worth of commissions by facilitating the sale of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other drugs.
    Silk Road
    Ross William Ulbricht.
    He had graduated from the University of Texas with a physics degree in 2006, then attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Materials Science and Engineering from 2006 to 2010. After graduate school, Ulbricht wrote on his LinkedIn profile, his goals had ‘‘shifted,’’ prompting him to create an ‘‘economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force’’ by ‘‘institutions and governments,’’ the FBI said.
    That ‘‘simulation,’’ the government alleges, was Silk Road.
    On the Silk Road operation, Ulbricht allegedly ran a tight ship, employing a small staff of administrators, whom he paid an average of $US1000 to $US2000 a week to help operate the site, according to investigators. The administrators filed weekly reports on their activities, asked him for guidance in dealing with user inquiries and sought permission before taking leave.
    On September 23, Silk Road had almost 13,000 listings for illegal drugs, under categories including cannabis, dissociatives, ecstasy, intoxicants, opioids, precursors, psychedelics and stimulants, according to the complaint. Under its ''services'' heading, users could hire computer hackers, buy instructions for hacking cash machines or obtain a list of black-market contacts to get anonymous bank accounts, counterfeit money, guns, stolen credit card information and hit men.
    A ''seller’s guide'' on the site advised users to vacuum seal packages containing drugs to avoid detection by police dogs and drug-detection machines.
    To hide his illegal activities from authorities, Ulbricht ran Silk Road on ''The Onion Router'' or ''Tor'' network, an Internet network designed to hide the identities of users by making it almost impossible to identify computers used to access or host websites, prosecutors said.
    Yet a beginner's error may have brought him undone. According to a Slate blogger Ulbricht visited Stack Overflow, a website which invites users to answer questions about coding problems, in March 2012 to ask two questions. One of those questions, ''How can I connect to a Tor hidden service using curl in php?'' caught the attention of the FBI.
    Ulbricht had posted the question using his own name, and having noticed his mistake less than a minute later, quickly changed it to his username ''frosty''. The careless error would prove costly. It was picked up by the FBI and cited as a key piece of evidence against him in the criminal complaint filed in a federal court in Manhattan this week.
    Beginning in November 2011, undercover agents made more than 100 drug purchases, including ecstasy, cocaine, heroin and LSD, from Silk Road vendors, according to the complaint.
    On August 5, 2011, DPR notified users of a new category of illegal items for sale on the site.
    ''We are happy to announce a new category in the marketplace called forgeries,'' he said in a message posted on the site. ''In this category, you will find offers for forged, government issued documents including fake IDs and passports.''
    The legal documents made public Wednesday provided a window into an enterprise that, according to the government, generated $US1.2 billion in illicit sales and took in $US80 million in commissions in less than three years.
    In March, a Silk Road vendor known as FriendlyChemist told DPR (Ulbricht) through the site’s private message system that he had a list of the real names and addresses of Silk Road vendors and customers, which he obtained by hacking into the computer of another vendor, according to the complaint. FriendlyChemist threatened that he would publish the information on the Internet unless DPR paid him $500,000, which he said he needed to pay off his drug suppliers.
    DPR corresponded with a Silk Road user called redandwhite who said he represented the people owed money by FriendlyChemist.
    ''In my eyes, FriendlyChemist is a liability and I wouldn’t mind if he was executed,'' DPR said on March 27, according to the complaint. DPR provided FriendlyChemist’s name and address in White Rock, British Columbia, with ''Wife +3 kids.'' DPR later paid $US150,000 to redandwhite to have FriendlyChemist killed, according to the complaint.
    Canadian law enforcement authorities told the FBI they had no record of any Canadian resident with the name DPR passed on to redandwhite nor any record of a homicide in White Rock at the time. Ulbricht wasn’t charged in the alleged murder-for-hire scheme.
    Ulbricht is charged with narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, computer-hacking conspiracy and money-laundering conspiracy. If convicted he faces as long as life in prison. He made an initial appearance in a five-minute proceeding today in federal court in San Francisco. Ulbricht said he can’t afford an attorney and was assigned a federal public defender. He remains in custody.

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    Customs seize 30kg drugs at mail centres

    THEY came disguised as washing powder, body lotion, resin and hidden in a coffee machine.

    But the 30 kilograms of precursor and performance-enhancing drugs en route to NSW addresses didn't fool customs officers.

    In the past week, they've uncovered 24.6kg of ephedrine, 6kg of ContacNT and 2kg of testosterone at the NSW Air Cargo and Sydney Mail Centre.

    The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) says the 10 consignments from China, Hong Kong and Vietnam were destined for various addresses across the state.

    The ephedrine was concealed in items such as scraper handles, metal lunch boxes, body lotion, tile cutters, resin, a table top and a coffee machine.

    Authorities discovered the testosterone hidden in washing powder, while the ContacNT was concealed in extension cords.

    ContacNT is a cold and flu medication that contains high levels of pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical used to manufacture methamphetamine, also known as ice.

    Importing prohibited substances attracts a fine of up to $170,000 or five years in jail.

    "No matter how these prohibited substances are concealed, our highly trained officers have the intelligence, technology and expertise to detect these dangerous drugs," ACBPS acting national manager cargo operations Gerry Rodrigues said in a statement.

    Investigations are ongoing.
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    Cops bust three for allegedly hiding 200kg of methamphetamine in truck tyres

    Media Release: Three arrested for importing more than 200kgs of methamphetamine in truck tyres
    Release Date: Friday, October 11 2013, 10:00 AM

    This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Australian Crime Commission.

    A multi-agency taskforce has seized more than 200kgs of methamphetamine concealed in truck tyres, and arrested three men following an operation in Melbourne this week.

    The methamphetamine has an estimated potential street value of up to $200 million. Further forensic testing will be undertaken to determine exact weight and purity.

    This is one of the largest multi-agency operations involving joint waterfront taskforces in Brisbane (Jericho), Sydney (Polaris) and Melbourne (Trident), as well as the Sydney-based Joint Organised Crime Group and the Melbourne-based Joint Organised Crime Taskforce.

    The operation began on 13 September when the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) identified a consignment arriving into Australia consisting of a medium sized truck destined for Melbourne.

    Further examination revealed a number of packages containing a crystalline substance concealed in the tyres of the truck. Initial testing determined the substance to be methamphetamine.

    The matter was referred to the two joint taskforces in Melbourne and Sydney and a controlled operation commenced.

    On 1 October, the consignment arrived in the port of Melbourne and was collected by a 59-year-old Altona Meadows man. The consignment was then delivered to a factory in Brooklyn on 3 October.

    On 9 October officers from the Joint Organised Crime Taskforce executed seven search warrants in Altona Meadows, Brooklyn, Point Cook and Hoppers Crossing. A 59-year-old Altona Meadows man, a 29-year-old Point Cook man and a 25-year-old Point Cook man were subsequently arrested.

    An eighth search warrant was executed at a factory in Laverton yesterday (10 October).

    Items seized from search warrants included $80,000 in cash, hard drives and mobile phones.

    Police will allege the 59-year-old Altona Meadows man and the 29-year-old Point Cook man were recently employed as dock workers in Melbourne.

    AFP Manager Melbourne Office Commander Scott Lee said this operation shows Australian law enforcement agencies are more united than ever in the fight against organised crime.

    "Australian agencies are setting a benchmark for law enforcement cooperation. Through our combined commitment to combatting this crime type, we are working across jurisdictions and borders to deal significant blows to crime syndicates," Commander Lee said.

    ACBPS Regional Director Victoria Graham Krisohos said this significant detection demonstrates the commitment of Australian law enforcement agencies to protecting the Australian community.

    "No matter how sophisticated the concealment, Customs and Border Protection and our law enforcement partners have the technology and intelligence to stop these dangerous drugs at the border," Mr Krisohos said.

    Victoria Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Fontana said this operation was another example of the great joint agency partnership.

    "Operations like this show just how effective we can be in detecting and disrupting organised crime in this country when we work together and share our knowledge and expertise," Acting Deputy Commissioner Fontana said.

    ACC Victoria State Manager Jonathan Nicholl said that this outcome demonstrates the strength of collaborated law enforcement in Australia.

    "Australian law enforcement is a formidable force in Australia and with this united effort we have sent a strong message to organised criminals."

    The AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce, which includes members of the ACC and the Australian Taxation Office, will proceed with asset seizure.

    Summary of charges:

    A 59-year-old Altona Meadows man and a 29-year-old Point Cook man were charged with:

    Importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, contrary to section 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth); and
    Attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported, contrary to section 307.8(1) and 11.1(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
    A 25-year-old Point Cook man was charged with:

    Attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported, contrary to section 307.8(1) and 11.1(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
    These offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

    The men appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday 9 October and are next scheduled to appear on 29 January 2014.

    Taskforce information:

    The Melbourne-based Joint Organised Crime Taskforce consists of Victoria Police, ACBPS, AFP and the Australian Crime Commission.

    The Sydney-based Joint Organised Crime Group consists of NSW Police, NSW Crime Commission, ACPBS, AFP and the Australian Crime Commission.

    The Jericho Taskforce includes the AFP, ACBPS, Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Taxation Office, Queensland Police Service and AUSTRAC.

    The Polaris Taskforce includes the AFP, NSW Police Force, ACBPS, Australian Crime Commission and the NSW Crime Commission.

    The Trident Taskforce includes the AFP, ACBPS, Victoria Police, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Tax Office and AUSTRAC.
    Last edited by poledriver; 11-10-2013 at 03:24.
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    Media Release: Three Perth men arrested following attempt to internally import drugs

    This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Western Australia Police and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

    Three men in Perth have been charged with drug offences following an attempt to import methylamphetamine into Australia.

    A 44-year-old Perth man is scheduled to appear before Perth Magistrates Court today for allegedly importing 608 grams of methylamphetamine concealed inside his stomach.

    As a result of information provided by Western Australia Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) officers conducted a baggage examination when the man arrived at Perth International Airport on a flight from Thailand on
    4 October 2013.

    Initial testing revealed traces of methylamphetamine and the matter was referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AFP transferred the man to hospital for medical examination following suspicions he may have been concealing drugs internally.

    A total of 152 pellets containing 608 grams of methylamphetamine were retrieved. The man was yesterday charged with importing a marketable quantity of a Border Controlled Drug contrary to section 307.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 and is to appear in court today.

    Western Australia Police later arrested a 42-year-old Koondoola man at his house and charged him with importing a marketable quantity of a Border Controlled Drug contrary to section 307.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995. He was bailed to appear before Perth Magistrates Court on 1 November 2013.

    Following further investigation, the AFP and West Australian Police arrested a 43-year-old Padbury man on Monday, 7 October and charged him with importing a marketable quantity of a Border Controlled Drug contrary to section 307.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 and possess methylamphetamine with intent to sell of supply contrary to section 6(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act. The man appeared before court on 8 October and was remanded in custody for a bail hearing on 11 October 2013.

    AFP Acting National Manager Aviation David Stewart said these arrests demonstrate the combined efforts of law enforcement and border protection agencies to combat drug importation.

    “People will go to dangerous lengths in their attempts to smuggle drugs into Australia, and internal concealments are extremely dangerous and high risk,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Stewart said.

    “The AFP is committed to working closely with its partner agencies to ensure these drugs don’t go undetected and make it into our communities.”

    Detective Inspector Chris Adams, WA Police Serious and Organised Crime Division said that the WA Police Organised Crime Squad works closely with state and national law enforcement agencies across Australia to target those people involved in the importation and distribution of illicit drugs.

    “The use of illicit drugs is in our community creates flow on effects in relation to crime, health and family breakdowns,” said Detective Inspector Adams.

    “People who sell drugs are doing nothing more than profiting from the misery they create for others.”

    “The flow on effect in our community includes the burglaries, robberies and other volume crime offences committed to pay for a drug habit, and the link to violence and domestic violence whilst under the influence of drugs. “

    ACBPS National Manager Airport Operations South Tonie Differding congratulated airport operations officers on preventing this illicit drug from reaching the streets.

    “No matter how these illegal drugs are hidden, our officers have the intelligence, the skills, and the technology to stop dangerous drugs from entering the country.”

    The maximum penalty for importing a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug is 25 years imprisonment and/or a $550,000 fine.
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    Two arrested over $12m drug haul

    A Canadian man and a Chinese woman have been charged with smuggling drugs with a street value of up to $12 million into Australia in the lining of their suitcases.

    Customs officers allegedly found about 12 kilograms of the drug ice when they examined baggage belonging to the pair after they arrived at Sydney Airport on a flight from Canada on Saturday.

    Australian Federal Police charged the 38-year-old man and 28-year-old woman with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely methamphetamine.

    AFP national manager aviation David Stewart said the size of the seizure and the amount of harm it had the potential to cause “cannot be understated”.

    Further forensic testing will be conducted to determine the exact weight and purity of the substance found.

    The Australian Crime Commission estimates that 12 kilograms of methamphetamine has a potential street value of roughly between $9 to $12 million.

    This is based on the calculation that one kilogram of high purity methamphetamine has an estimated street value of $1 million.

    The accused were due to appear in Parramatta Local Court on Sunday.

    They face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

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    Federal police smash drug ring, arrest three Canadian nationals

    FEDERAL police have smashed an international drug trafficking ring operating in Melbourne, seizing 650kg of pseudoephedrine.
    Three Canadian nationals were arrested in raids in the CBD and at Melbourne Airport on Sunday.

    The drugs were found mixed with vanilla powder, and officers estimate the seizure would have a street value of up to $100 million if it were made into methamphetamines.

    A man, 46, was arrested trying to board a plane at Tullamarine.

    He was due to take a domestic flight and it was believed he was within hours of leaving the country.

    A man, 27, and a woman, 30, were arrested at a city apartmen. They have been charged with trafficking large quantities of a drug of dependence.

    The Australian Federal Police said the 653kg of drugs were found in a storage container in South Melbourne following intelligence gathered by New South Wales police.

    Officers had identified a vehicle carrying boxes of pseudoephedrine in vanilla powder.

    Federal officers involved in Operation Diamond Back were alerted and began watching the shipment in August.

    Police have been watching the premises since.

    The bust is the latest in an 18-month investigation into a major international syndicate which has led to seven other arrests, including four Canadians and three Australians.

    The AFP have seized a total of 1.9 tonnes during the investigation, worth $300 million.

    AFP Melbourne office manager Commander Scott Lee said the arrests would be a significant blow to the international crime syndicate.

    "It really does impact on what they sought to profit,'' he said.

    "We are committed to disrupting organised crime syndicates that impact on the Australian community."

    The AFP was working with Victoria Police, Customs officials and the Australian Crime Commission.
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    Drugs in the Media
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    Men plead guilty over huge drug haul

    Four men have pleaded guilty to producing drugs on a large scale in the Gold Coast hinterland.

    Two of the men were found with over one kilogram of pure methylamphetamine when police raided a Beechmont house in 2010.

    At the time police said the drugs had a street value of up to $3 million.

    Dino Spizzirri, Jason Hinton, Stephen Creighton and Kevin O'Hara pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Monday to producing drugs and possessing items used in the commission of a crime.

    Creighton, 54, also pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and possession.

    The court heard Spizzirri, 56, was the ringleader and Hinton, 34, was his right-hand man.

    O'Hara, 31, sourced the chemicals and cooking implements and Creighton sold the drugs from the warehouse of his business.

    Police tapped the men's phones and hid a camera in the warehouse during a covert surveillance operation in late 2009 and early 2010.

    The surveillance paid off in May 2010 when police raided the Beechmont house and found Spizzirri and Hinton with the methylamphetamine in the final stages of production.

    Crown prosecutor Sarah Farnden called it a sophisticated operation which took some time to set up.

    "This is clearly a commercial production on a large scale," she told the court.

    The men are expected to be sentenced later on Monday.
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    Elderly Perth couple unknowingly used as drug mules after winning holiday to Canada

    Australian Federal Police have uncovered a scam in which an elderly Perth couple were unknowingly used as drug mules.

    Police say the couple, aged 64 and 72, travelled to Canada after being told they had won a free holiday, including seven nights' accommodation and new luggage.

    They became suspicious on their return to Perth and alerted Customs officers who found 3.5 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in each of their suitcases.

    A 38-year-old Canadian man was arrested at Perth airport and has been charged with importing a commercial quantity of methamphetamine.

    AFP Commander David Bachi said police do not believe the couple were willingly involved.

    "The investigation has revealed a complex and highly organised scam in which older Australians appear to be targeted by a bogus Canadian-based tour company identifying themselves as Auscan Tours," he said.

    "The organisers of this scam went to great lengths to provide a façade of legitimacy.

    "Thankfully the travellers contacted Customs and didn't dismiss their concerns, allowing us to make the arrest.

    "We will continue working with local and international law enforcement partners, targeting all elements of this drug syndicate."

    "Victims of this scam or any persons who have received similar offers of travel should contact the AFP immediately."

    Jan Hill, the director of Customs Airport Operations in Perth, warned travellers about carrying luggage on behalf of someone else, no matter the circumstance.

    "If you've been asked to carry something on behalf of another person, make the right choice and alert local authorities," Ms Hill said.

    "Do not allow another person to pack your bag and do not carry luggage on behalf of another person."

    The AFP says investigations into the incident are continuing.

    The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.
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    Couple in their 60s travelling interstate caught with cannabis in their caravan

    TWO grey nomads have been charged with drug offences after police found 7.25kg of cannabis hidden in their caravan.

    The Fleurieu Peninsula couple were stopped by police on the Mallee Highway at Lameroo about 9.30am where their caravan was searched.

    Police will allege the undercarriage of the caravan had been modified to include a purpose-built compartment containing 16 packages, each with one pound (0.45kg) of cannabis inside.

    The couple, a 64-year-old man and a 62-year-old woman, were allegedly trying to traffic the cannabis interstate.

    The caravan and the drugs have been seized and the couple have been charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of cannabis.

    They were bailed to appear in the Berri Magistrates Court late next month.

    Investigations into the origin of the cannabis are continuing.
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    Media Release: Two arrested for importing 18kgs of methamphetamine

    This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

    Two Taiwanese men have been arrested by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for allegedly importing 18 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden inside machinery from China.

    On 17 October 2013 Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) officers targeted a consignment described as industrial metal bending machines which arrived in Sydney from China.

    Customs officers and AFP Forensics specialists examined the consignment, which consisted of wooden crates containing six metal blocks with grinding wheels.

    The examination revealed the metal blocks each contained three kilograms of methamphetamine, with a total weight of 18 kilograms.

    AFP officers substituted the methamphetamine for an inert substance and the consignment was delivered to a residence in the Sydney suburb of Marsfield.

    The 33-year-old and 22-year-old Taiwanese nationals were arrested by the AFP on Monday, 28 October 2013, after accessing the bending machines to retrieve the concealed substance.

    They are both scheduled to appear in Sydney Central Local Court today.

    AFP Acting Manager Serious and Organised Crime Damien Appleby said this seizure highlighted the benefit of collaboration between local and international law enforcement.

    “The AFP values the assistance provided by the Taiwanese authorities during this investigation, which has helped prevent a significant amount of dangerous drugs from reaching Australian streets,” said Acting Commander Appleby.

    “This is an example of why international partnerships are critical in combatting organised criminal syndicates operating without concern for international borders or law.”

    ACBPS National Manager Cargo Operations Jagtej Singh said these drugs were concealed in a particularly sophisticated fashion.

    “Criminals are endlessly creative in the ways in which they seek to breach our border controls, but Customs and Border Protection officers have the skills, training, technology and expertise to detect such attempts,” Mr Singh said.

    Both men were charged with attempt to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995, by virtue of section 11.1.

    The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.
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    Media Release: Trident Taskforce shuts down multi-million dollar tobacco importation syndicate

    This is a joint release between the Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Victoria Police and the Australian Crime Commission.

    Trident Taskforce has closed the net on one of the biggest organised illicit tobacco importation syndicates in the country's history.

    Four people have been arrested and large sum of money was seized in warrants today as the taskforce executed the second phase of the operation.

    Phase one of the operation was conducted in June, with six people charged.

    The operation commenced in January, following on from an Australian Customs and Border Protection Service operation as a result of the detection of a large quantity of illegally imported tobacco from Indonesia.

    Phase two of the operation was initiated from intelligence gathered during the first phase and other material, alleging that an organised crime syndicate was importing a large volume of illicit tobacco from the United Arab Emirates and other overseas locations.

    Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Crime Command Steve Fontana said all up, the estimated total defrauded revenue was more than $67 million.

    "This is one of the largest organised crime set ups, in relation to international tobacco importation, we have seen with around 71 tonnes and 80 million cigarette sticks seized," Mr Fontana said.

    "The illicit importation of tobacco at this scale allows organised crime groups to develop considerable wealth.

    "Anecdotal evidence suggests proceeds of tobacco finance further illicit drug purchases and criminal activity.

    "Law enforcement agencies are conscious of the risk organised crime in the port environment poses to legitimate trade and the risk of illicit commodities entering the country.

    "The benefit of a multi-agency approach is sharing our intelligence, collective experience and assets to detect and disrupt this level of illegal activity arriving through our ports.

    "This operation would not have been possible without the strong partnerships between Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Australian Transactions Reporting and Analysis Centre, Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Crime Commission."

    The six people arrested in June were charged with a range of offences, including dishonestly causing a loss to the Commonwealth by smuggling tobacco products into Australia, dealing in the proceeds of crime and importing tobacco products into Australia with the intention of defrauding the Australian revenue.

    Trident Taskforce is a joint agency taskforce that was established in July 2012, comprising Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Australian Transactions Reporting and Analysis Centre, Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Crime Commission.

    Their focus is to create a hostile environment for organised crime to exist in the maritime environment.
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    Olympian faces more drug charges

    Former Olympic kayaker Nathan Baggaley has been arrested on drug manufacture charges just two years after being released from a four year jail term for similar offences.

    A spokesperson for the Australian Federal Police confirmed two men, aged 37 and 52, had been arrested in Tweed Heads as part of an ongoing investigation into drug laboratories.

    Baggaley, 37, will face seven charges including conspiracy to import and manufacture a prohibited drug, and to supply a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.

    A 52-year-old man was also charged with drug manufacture.

    The pair have been refused bail and will appear in court in Lismore on Monday.

    Police said a 32-year-old man had also been arrested as part of the investigation.

    ''As this matter is currently still the subject of an AFP investigation, it is not appropriate to comment further.'' said a spokesperson.

    Mr Baggaley was released from jail in 2011 after serving four years behind bars for manufacturing and dealing ecstasy.

    Last November he told the Daily Telegraph newspaper, "I need to get back on track, get my life in order and try and make it up to people, particularly my family.''

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    Last edited by poledriver; 03-11-2013 at 06:04.
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    Customs bust passenger smuggling precursor drugs in noodles and rice - 1 November 2013

    Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) officers seized approximately two kilograms of ephedrine at Sydney International Airport yesterday, 31 October 2013.

    A 68 year-old who arrived on a flight from Vietnam was stopped by ACBPS officers for a baggage examination.

    During the examination, officers noticed a brown-coloured powder mixed into packets of rice and noodles. Further testing of the powder returned positive results for ephedrine.

    “This concealment was a direct attempt to evade detection by Customs and Border Protection,” ACBPS Acting National Manager Airport Operation North, Allison Denny-Collins said.

    “We take the illegal importation of precursor chemicals very seriously. If you are caught trying smuggle prohibited substances through Customs, you could face heavy penalties or even gaol time.”

    Ephedrine is used to manufacture dangerous and illegal amphetamine-type substances such as ‘ice’. Importing ephedrine without a permit is prohibited.

    Those caught importing a marketable amount of a border controlled precursor, such as ephedrine, could face a fine of up to $510,000 and/or 15 years in prison.
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    Drugs in the Media
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    May 2009
    Police smash Sydney hydro factory at Botany containing almost 1000 plants worth $1.7 million

    POLICE from the NSW Drug Squad have raided a massive Hydro warehouse in Sydney today, seizing nearly 1000 cannabis plants worth an estimated $1.7 million.

    Police went to a factory in Aylesbury St, Botany, just after 7am where they found 854 plants in various stages of maturity.

    The factory, measuring 600sq m had been converted into a massive hothouse complete with a fully automated watering system.

    Over the past two years police have uncovered and seized more than $20m from hydro houses throughout the city, but mainly in rented homes in suburban streets.

    NSW Police were acting on information provided to them by the Australian Crime Commission.
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    Australia & Asia Drug Discussion
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    Just a friendly reminder, this thread is for the posting of news articles only, not for any comments or discussion on them. This thread is the appropriate one for making any comments about articles posted here.

    Also, availability discussion is not allowed in AusDD, this includes discussing whether or not a particular drug bust will have an effect on drug supply in your area, or any other area.
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    Drugs in the Media
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    May 2009
    Drug arrests: $12m worth of 'ice' hidden in television

    Police have arrested three people during an alleged major drug deal in Sydney's south-east in which $12 million worth of methylamphetamine, known as "ice", had been hidden inside a television.

    Heavily armed police also raided two brothels and a number of properties as part of a five-month investigation that detectives say has smashed "a very active drug network" operating across Sydney.

    About 1.30pm on Wednesday, officers from the Tactical Operations Unit interrupted an alleged drug deal in Arncliffe taking place between two men and one woman.

    The officers arrested the trio and and seized 10 kilograms of ice that allegedly had been hidden inside a television. Police estimate the drugs had a street value of more than $12 million. They also seized a luxury vehicle.

    As those arrests were taking place, officers also executed five search warrants on two brothels and residential addresses at Liverpool, Campsie, Carlingford, Hurstville and Chipping Norton.

    Another man was arrested at the Liverpool address.

    Detective Superintendent Michael Plotecki, commander of the Organised Crime Targeting Squad, said the arrests followed a five-month investigation carried out by Strike Force Nemo.

    In August, the same strike force arrested three people and seized 40 kilograms of ice allegedly being imported from Colombia.

    “Strike Force Nemo was a very successful five-month investigation that has effectively closed down a very active drug network operating across Sydney," Superintendent Plotecki said.

    "This remains an ongoing inquiry and we expected further arrests, and additional charges will be laid regarding this investigation.”

    During Wednesday's raids, a 50-year-old Liverpool man was arrested and charged with two counts of supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, and four counts of supplying an indictable quantity of a prohibited drug.

    He was refused bail and is due to appear at the Liverpool Local Court on Thursday.

    A 50-year-old Hurstville man, a 42-year-old Carlingford man and a 39-year-old woman from Carlingford also were arrested and each has been charged with two counts of supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.

    They were all refused bail to appear in Kogarah Local Court on Thursday.
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    150 kilograms of cheese found in car, police say

    A man has been charged after police allegedly found 150 kilograms of cheese in his car in Sydney's north-west.

    Officers were patrolling in Carlingford when they stopped a black Ford Focus in Marsden Road at 3.30am on Thursday.

    After talking to the 38-year-old female driver and her 31-year-old male passenger, they searched the car and allegedly found drugs.

    But when they looked further they also say they found what they called "King Cheese" in the back seat and boot.

    Police believe the cheese was "stolen or illegally obtained".

    The man has been charged with possessing prohibited drugs.

    He's also been charged with goods in personal custody suspected of being stolen in connection with the cheese.

    He was refused bail and will appear in Ryde Local Court on Thursday.

    No charges have been laid against the woman.

    Police say the cheese has now been destroyed.

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    Sydney grandma, 39, caught in $12m ice bust

    Police allege the grandmother supplied 10kg of methamphetamine. (Pic: AAP / file) Source: AAP
    A SYDNEY grandmother accused of supplying $12 million worth of ice has wept violently in court as she was told that she could face life in prison.

    Lu Jing Yu, 39, faced Kogarah Local Court on Thursday where police alleged she was supplying 10kg of methamphetamine, or "ice".

    The Carlingford mother-of-five and grandmother cried as she was told that a conviction could carry a maximum penalty of life behind bars.

    Her young children, one aged only 11, wept as their mother applied for bail and was assisted by a Mandarin interpreter.

    Slim, dressed in three-quarter black jeans and a striped polo shirt, Yu didn't look like a grandmother while sitting in the dock.

    The court heard she was in a car with her husband Wenping He on Wednesday.

    Her husband dropped her off and she got into another car.

    He, 42, was allegedly caught by police with the 10kg of ice in a TV set stored the boot of the car at Arncliffe on Wednesday afternoon. The drugs have an estimated street value of $12 million.

    Police allegedly found $50,000 in US dollars and $20,000 in Australian cash at the family's Carlingford home.

    Her barrister told the court that although the prosecution had an "extremely strong" case against her husband, Yu didn't know what was in the boot of the car and was not present when a supposed drug deal was taking place.

    Both were charged with the large commercial supply of the prohibited drug ice, along with another man, Dong Pei Wang and a third man who faced Liverpool Local Court.

    Wang and He are also accused of supplying 995.7 grams of ice on October 22 in Mascot.

    Yu was granted bail but won't walk free until police determine a $600,000 surety is legitimate, the court heard.

    She will have to surrender her passport, not leave NSW and report daily to police.

    Wang and He didn't apply for bail, it was formally refused and they will face Central Local Court later this month.

    Officers also raided two brothels, as well as homes at Liverpool, Campsie, Carlingford, Hurstville and Chipping Norton on Wednesday afternoon after swooping on the drug deal at Arncliffe earlier in the day.

    A total of seven people have been charged as a result of the work of Strike Force Nemo, targeting ice imports from Columbia, police say.

    The latest raids follow arrests in August resulted in 40kg of ice being seized.

    Police expect to make further arrests.
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    Playboy model Brandi Brandt extradited to Australia to face charges of drug importation

    FORMER Playboy model and actress Brandi Brandt will remain in custody after she was extradited to Australia to face drug importation charges.

    Brandt, who is best known for marrying Motley Crue's bassist Nikki Sixx, arrived in Sydney from Los Angeles yesterday.

    Brandt is accused of being involved with a cocaine importation syndicate that hid packages of the drug on Qantas and United Airlines planes that flew from California to Sydney.

    It is alleged employees of an airline catering company collected the packages.

    Documents filed at Central Local Court allege that between July and December, 2007, Brandt conspired to import a commercial quantity of cocaine and that she dealt with more than $130,000 in proceeds between July and November of the same year.

    The 44-year-old remains in custody after appearing in Central Local Court yesterday. She did not apply for bail and is set to reappear next month.
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    Simon Gittany was jailed for drug dealing in 2000

    Convicted murderer Simon Gittany was jailed for supplying the party drug ecstasy more than a decade ago.

    The shoe importer, 40, had been living the life of a high-flyer in a deluxe inner-city apartment when he murdered his fiancee Lisa Cecelia Harnum in 2012.

    But 12 years earlier, Gittany was sentenced to three years of periodic detection after police found him with 55 ecstasy tablets in a black Porsche when they pulled the car over for a random breath test in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

    Court documents reveal police noticed a nervous Gittany sitting in the passenger seat of the car, which was stopped on Manning Road at Double Bay on March 29, 2000.

    An officer noticed a bulge in his pants and asked him what he was hiding.

    Gittany pulled out a wad of mostly $50 notes. Then he bolted.

    He was chased to nearby Wallaroy Road, where he was seen to dump a plastic container in a garden bed.

    It contained 55 white tablets stamped with “Y2K”.

    He jumped the fence of a house nearby and tried to hide in the front yard but a security light came on and gave away his hiding spot.

    Police arrested Gittany and found he had stuffed $4500 down his pants and a further $707.60 in his back pocket.

    He was charged at Paddington police station and later pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court to the charge of supplying a prohibited drug.

    Gittany was sentenced to three years of periodic detection with a non-parole period of two years.

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    Drugs in the Media
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    May 2009
    When the Wolf got caught: how an accidental phone call helped bring down Oliver Ortiz

    From the sky, the Friday freedom was just one of dozens of dots moving across a vast expanse of blue. But the Australian Customs, Federal Police and US Drug Enforcement Administration agents covertly tracking the vessel in the Bundaberg Cruising Yacht Club's Port2Port Rally suspected it was no ordinary boat. For one, the man at the helm was one hell of a sailor.

    When fierce Pacific Ocean swells forced most of the yachts in the rally to shelter in coral reefs, the Friday Freedom held true, ploughing through the two-metre waves buffeting the 17-metre cutter. The Friday Freedom's captain - a tattooed, bearded mariner from Spain - had also been using the alias El Lobo, which means "the wolf", to contact an associate from the Gold Coast going by the nom de plume El Calamar, or "the squid". Eight months before the yacht departed from Port Vila in Vanuatu, a third man who was in regular contact with the Wolf and the Squid had approached a small money-remitting service in Sydney that sends funds overseas for a fee. This man wanted $4 million wired to South America.

    This was the point I'd cracked it. I put an alert on every Spaniard coming in.

    If something was hidden on the Friday Freedom, it was likely to be worth plenty. Or so several nervous senior federal agents in Canberra hoped as they dispatched 150 officers dressed in T-shirts, boardshorts or skirts to melt into the north Queensland town made famous by the rum that bears its name. The rookie investigator whose work had prompted the sudden influx of fit-looking men and women to Bundaberg in October 2011 was even more anxious. Despite nine months of investigations, Grace Calma couldn't say with certainty what was on-board the Friday Freedom. "I was really nervous the whole time," she says. "It was one of those situations where we had money moving, we had guys acting a bit weird - but not overly weird - and we were, like, 'What are the possible explanations for this?' "

    It wasn't just the 29-year-old police officer's reputation and a vast amount of resources at stake. Operation Avalon was the biggest test to date of Australia's newest strategy to combat organised crime. Little wonder Calma "was absolutely packing it".

    From his eight-bedroom, three-storey hill-side mansion house in the trendy suburb of Joá in Rio De Janeiro, Spanish-born Oliver Ortiz's balcony offered sweeping views of the white sand beaches of Barra and São Conrado. To reach his Harley-Davidson in the garage, Ortiz used a glass elevator. Ortiz's ostentatious digs stood in stark contrast to Rio's notorious favelas or shanty towns, just a short drive from his house. But there were similarities, too. The favelas were built into hillsides that gave their most powerful inhabitants - the drug traffickers who mostly lived on higher ground - sweeping ocean views.
    In a favela, a gram of Bolivian or Colombian cocaine is easier to buy and costs less than a six-pack of beer. In Australia, a gram of cocaine costs about $350. Ortiz avoided the favelas, but he'd been to Australia. In October 2010, he travelled to Sydney and then on to Vanuatu, describing the reason for the trip on his customs declaration as "tourism". Ortiz travelled to Port Vila with another Spaniard, Sanchez Barrocal. Both men were keen sailors and divers, passions shared growing up together in the same small Spanish coastal town. In Vanuatu, they met another Spanish sailor, Christobal Chamorro.

    Unsurprisingly, the trio's trip to Vanuatu had raised no suspicions among customs officers used to tanned and wealthy tourists island-hopping through the Pacific. Chamorro had told customs about his intention to sail a yacht called the Adamas from Vanuatu to Bundaberg in the annual Port2Port rally.

    On October 24, 2010, Chamorro had sailed into the Port of Bundaberg without incident. Around the same time, Ortiz had returned home to Rio and Barrocal moved to the Gold Coast.

    Australian Federal Police (AFP) agent Grace Calma knew none of this when, three months later, she was assigned a classic "cold targeting" case. It was February 2011, and her task was to identify a man who had contacted a known money launderer in Sydney. "All we had was a dude," she says. And $4 million.

    This "dude" had olive skin (a witness described him as possibly Greek or Lebanese) and he'd met the money launderer at Granville railway station in Sydney's west, where he handed over white boxes containing the cash. CCTV vision allowed Calma to track the man from the station carpark back to an apartment block in Bondi Beach. Rental records recorded his name as Herrero Calva, although his car was registered in a name that was also unfamiliar to her: Oliver Ortiz. Ortiz didn't register on any law-enforcement databases, but Herrero Calvo did.

    The Spaniard had never been charged with any criminal offence, but customs officers had red-flagged him after he'd flown to Australia in late 2009 and, when quizzed about the purpose of his trip, had replied that it was raining in Madrid. When he left Australia four days later, Customs marked him as a traveller who should be subjected to scrutiny if he ever returned.

    A year later, when Calvo flew into Sydney, his luggage was discreetly searched. Along with the usual tourist items, a customs officer found a single piece of paper that recorded the costs of transporting a shipping container. In February 2011, Calma was armed with strong suspicions and a phone-tapping warrant, but little more. Calvo wasn't connected to any known criminals apart from the money launderer he'd met near Granville station. And the phone tap yielded little. He regularly attended his English classes and didn't use drugs or even talk about them.

    The only thing that regularly tweaked Calma's curiosity was the Spaniard's frequent discussions about sailing, yachts and shipping containers. Phone taps revealed that the man with whom Calvo had these discussions was another keen Spanish sailor, Sanchez Barrocal, who was living on the Gold Coast and who was also studying English. Curious, Calma checked Barrocal's travel history. He had travelled to Vanuatu several months before with the man whose name Calvo's car was registered in, Oliver Ortiz.

    Barrocal and Ortiz may have been doing no more than snorkelling and sailing. Indeed, Barrocal's affinity with the ocean had led his friends to call him El Calamar. But to Calma, something smelt more than a little fishy.

    The fact a 29-year-old former forensic specialist who had spent just four years as a detective could be assigned a potentially major international operation speaks volumes about a decision inside the nation's police agency to shake things up. By late 2010, it was accepted inside the AFP that the agency's focus on terrorism, cyber crime, overseas deployments and asylum seekers had shifted attention too far away from organised crime, just as it was booming. Crime bosses were increasingly based offshore and setting up compartmentalised syndicates utilising the latest counter-surveillance technology. At the same time, Australians were paying top dollar for drugs, which was increasing supply. Police were struggling to keep up and they knew it. So Commissioner Tony Negus picked two blokes with a difference and told them to come up with some new ideas.

    Commander Ian "Irish" McCartney had joined the AFP in the 1980s after spending 18 months as an accountant. The quietly spoken Northern Irishman's qualifications meant he was sent to the fraud department, which at the time was regarded as the Siberia of policing. McCartney was unfazed. It was obvious that knowing how to follow a money trail was a vital skill, and one he sharpened as he developed a reputation as one of the AFP's most effective, albeit understated, performers.

    Commander David Sharpe's early policing experience could not have been more different. A former top rugby player from the bush, the personable and energetic agent had cut his teeth in the ACT drug squad and the taskforce investi-gating the 1989 murder of AFP assistant commissioner Colin Winchester. Sharpe's generation of federal police regarded "fraudies" like McCartney with almost as much suspicion as they regarded state police and other federal agencies.

    Both Sharpe and McCartney had excelled in mid-career overseas postings - Sharpe in Vietnam and McCartney in China - and had developed a close friendship. They knew how to play policing politics, but avoided it. They also both knew the AFP had to change if it was to tackle a global nemesis. International crime syndicates were increasingly using "shore parties" - expendable runners with no knowledge of who was directing them - to infiltrate Australia and operate as hands-on drug importers. If these runners were arrested, they were quickly replaced and the impact on the overseas syndicate was minimal. No wonder the amount of drugs passing across the nation's borders far exceeded what was being seized.

    McCartney proposed that money might provide a way in. "What we were seeing was the major [crime-syndicate] controllers were actually based offshore. So our focus shifted to targeting and disrupting the professional money-laundering syndicates that are in effect moving money on behalf of organised crime.

    "We could go out and do a cash grab in terms of disrupting the money-laundering syndicate, or we could start working backwards or working forwards to identify the primary crime syndicate [generating the dirty cash]."

    The AFP established dedicated money-laundering teams and quickly unearthed a "United Nations" of corrupt but highly efficient remitters (predominantly Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Tamil and Chinese) in major cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne - two cities McCartney says are "awash with drug cash".

    These money movers were prepared to knowingly flout anti-money laundering laws in return for a 3 to 5 per cent cut of every dollar moved, and to even underwrite funds, replacing money if cash was seized by police. But seizing money was only part of McCartney and Sharpe's new equation. Money launderers would be allowed to operate for days, weeks or even months after being uncovered and, in extreme and "highly controlled" cases, to move suspected drug funds offshore. "Allowing that money to run gives us the opportunity to identify major organisers overseas and track fresh importations," says McCartney.

    Grace Calma, a self-professed nerd who bred and sold tropical fish to pay her way through university, was one of McCartney and Sharpe's earliest and keenest recruits. "Money scares the shit out of everyone [in the force], 'cause they're like, 'Oh, it's so hard,' " she says. "But investigating money is no different to investigating drugs. In many respects, it's easier because it's a physical commodity that they [criminals] have to [continually] move, versus a drug shipment that can occur very infrequently."

    Calma showed promise for another reason; she didn't care for the inter-agency squabbling that previously hindered the fight against crime. (The AFP says these old jealousies are long dead, and 65 per cent of its organised-crime probes are done in partnership with other agencies, including state police forces.) Yet some things never change in policing. Senior cops prosper or perish on results. Without some big hits, McCartney and Sharpe's vision would founder. And Calma knew it.

    By August 2011, after spending months building a picture of English-language students Herrero Calvo and Sanchez Barrocal (Oliver Ortiz had not returned from Rio), Calma was becoming frustrated. "They were really boring," she says. "Barrocal used to play [computer game] Battlefield 3 almost every day. I'm a computer nerd myself, so it would be kind of exciting hearing some of their conversations ... [but] they never once mentioned drugs."

    In late September, Calvo accidently "pocket-called" a number in his mobile phone. This inadvertent phone call would change everything. The number he dialled was unfamiliar to Calma. It belonged to a Spanish national called Christobal Chamorro. Chamorro's travel records revealed that when Barrocal and Ortiz had been in Vanuatu, Chamorro was also there.

    But unlike the other Spaniards, Chamorro hadn't travelled by plane. In October 2010, he had sailed in the Port Vila to Bundaberg yacht rally on the Adamas. Before Vanuatu, the Adamas had visited the Port of Balboa in Panama, a known cocaine-trafficking hub. Calma had no proof, but the available intelligence and her instinct suggested the Adamas was carrying drugs that had been sold in Australia, generating the $4 million Calvo had handed over to a money launderer in February 2011.

    Calma asked Customs how many Spaniards had previously travelled from Vanuatu to Australia by boat or plane every month. The number was around six, small enough to request Customs to conduct live monitoring. "This was the point where I'd cracked it," Calma says. "I decided to put an alert on every single Spaniard coming in."

    Calma wouldn't have to wait long. On October 13, she received an alert that a Spaniard named Ramos Valea had contacted Customs to tell them he was planning to sail from Vanuatu to Australia. Like Chamorro the year before, Valea had entered the Bundaberg Cruising Yacht Club's Port2Port Rally (all sailors must flag their intention to enter a port with the local customs officials). Valea told Customs he was departing in a matter of hours. "I was like, 'Oh, shit, this is sounding pretty good. The yacht is in Vanuatu at the moment,' " Calma says.

    She asked the AFP's Pacific Islands liaison officer to take a photo of Valea's boat. A short time later, she was sent a picture of a 17-metre white cutter with the name "Friday Freedom" painted in blue letters on the side. Calma also received two more pieces of information. Valea had been nominated as the recipient of $2000 that had been wired from Sydney to Panama a year earlier. The sender was Oliver Ortiz.
    Valea had also used an unusual email address to notify Customs of his travel intentions. It was [email protected]. In Spanish, a lobezno is a baby lobo - a wolf cub. An excited Calma picked up the phone and called Canberra. The Wolf was sailing to Australia: "I went from sort of just plodding along to 'Holy shit, I've got a lot to do all of a sudden.' " Intelligence from the US Drug Enforcement Administration corroborated AFP information suggesting that the Spaniards were a "logistics" cell active since at least 2009 and moving huge shipments of cocaine for a South American syndicate to Australia. But if that were true, Calvo, Valea and Barrocal weren't making it obvious. They never used the word cocaine and appeared to leave all sensitive discussions to face-to-face meetings or online chat sessions.

    Calma deciphered several code words the three had been using with increasing frequency on the phone: "mosquito" was Vanuatu, "the mammoth" was the yacht. Her confidence increased when Barrocal and Calvo had a series of discussions about buying suitcases and hiring cars to meet "the mammoth" in "the place you know".

    Among the few certainties in the operation was that the Wolf was a brilliant sailor; anyone in the AFP who knew anything about sailing marvelled at Valea's ability as they tracked the Friday Freedom across the Pacific Ocean.

    Valea sailed into the Port of Bundaberg on October 20. Four days later, surveillance operatives observed him using a new email account ([email protected]) at a backpackers' internet café to send a message to the Squid: "I'm where you already know ... I wait for you, calamar!"

    The police were also waiting, dotted throughout Bundaberg like a human spiderweb. But Valea was in no rush. After securing a two-week mooring permit, he went to the Bundaberg Yacht Club's pirate party with his Spanish girlfriend (his companion on the boat) and won first prize for best dressed.

    Police waited one week and then two. Once a third week had drifted by, Calma began doubting herself. On November 11, she flew to the Northern Territory for her grandmother's 80th birthday dinner. That same day, Calvo and Barrocal drove from the Gold Coast to the Bundaberg marina. AFP surveillance crews saw them meeting Valea and disappearing down the hull of the Friday Freedom with several suitcases.

    Twenty minutes later, the trio reappeared and carried the suitcases to two cars. They were arrested while driving a few minutes later. Police found a total of 300 kilograms of cocaine. At Barrocal's Gold Coast apartment, they discovered $288,850 in a safe; a further $3.7 million was found in Calvo's Sydney home. It was one of the AFP's biggest organised-crime hauls. But Calma had no illusions about the impact of what, on paper at least, was an extraordinarily successful operation. If the three Spaniards were a logistics cell, they were acting on someone else's orders. The AFP had no idea about the identity of the supply syndicate or the identity of the Australian buyers. Intelligence suggested it was the cell's third importation and they had moved at least $50 million over three years.

    After creating a 25-page chronology of the operation, Calma found something else that frustrated her. The man living it up in Rio, Oliver Ortiz, had appeared multiple times throughout her operation and Calma believed he was a senior player. And what was it about the Pacific Islands that had made the Spaniards so confident they wouldn't get caught? In the months after the Spaniards were arrested, the AFP launched a confidential project to examine why the Pacific Islands were increasingly being used as a staging point for international drug syndicates.

    Recently, the AFP finalised a confidential briefing paper that details serious "vulnerabilities", including corruption, in the region. Sharpe and McCartney won't talk about this paper, aside from pointing out that Operation Avalon was only the start of their efforts. Last November, Operation Walcott seized 200 kilograms of cocaine on a yacht near Tonga, and Operation Saba detected 200 kilograms in a boat near New Caledonia. Earlier this year, Operation Basco was launched based on information found during Calma's investigation, and as a result 750 kilograms of cocaine was seized from a yacht in Port Vila. Investigations are ongoing.

    But it isn't all about drug busts. Sharpe stresses the federal police is examining the broader, social factors at play that contribute to drug demand, such as education and health. The AFP is convening a youth drugs summit in the next few months to generate debate. "If you look at the yachts coming in, we've stopped a huge amount of cocaine hitting the streets ... Well, that's well and good. But what does that actually mean?"

    The word "decriminalisation" is still taboo in mainstream policing, but no one is talking about a war on drugs, either. Says Sharpe: "We cannot simply arrest our way out of the problem."

    In late 2012, Grace Calma headed to the US Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters in Virginia. She was escorted to a briefing room with the AFP's Colombian-based liaison officer and the DEA's Special Operations Division. Six months later, in late June, Calma got the email she had been waiting for.

    A hillside mansion in Joá, Rio De Janeiro, had been raided by the Brazilian Federal Police. Almost $10 million in assets, including a Harley-Davidson, was seized. Oliver Ortiz had been charged with money laundering. Calma smiled. She then got back to work.
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    Drugs in the Media
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    May 2009

    TEN handbags were found with about 2.5 kilograms of the drug 'ice' by customs officials being brought through Sydney Airport by a woman from Switzerland.

    The 51-year-old was selected for a baggage examination by Australian Customs and Border Protection Service on Wednesday after arriving from China.
    An x-ray of the bags revealed something suspicious in the lining. When the bags were pulled apart white crystals were found which were tested and shown to be 'ice'.

    The Australian Federal Police charged the woman with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. The matter is before the courts.
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    Police CATCH program urges highway patrol officers to look beyond road crimes to detect illegal activity

    It was on a lonely highway leading out of a tiny NSW town, along way from the so-called Golden Mile, where a Kings Cross identity's drug empire began to unravel.

    A white van driving along the Kamilaroi Highway just outside the north-western township of Quirindi, population 2500, was pulled over for a routine breath test.

    While the highway patrol officer was carrying out the test on December 19, 2010, he struck up a lengthy conversation with the two men inside the hired van. The longer they spoke, the more the officer's suspicions rose.

    ''When he started to question the individuals, nothing was weighing up,'' Detective Superintendent Stuart Smith says. '''Why are you here? What are you doing?' There was a whole lot of elements that come together and led him to think 'I need to search this.'''

    What he found in the back was a collection of glassware - the type used in large-scale illegal drug labs, which was enough for him to arrest both men.

    The drug squad came and searched the rest of the van, uncovering 19.5 kilograms of uncut MDEA, another form of the drug ecstasy, hidden in plastic bags within white buckets filled with sand. The haul was enough for at least 650,000 hits, which conservative estimates put at being worth about $19.5 million.

    Fingerprints on the glassware led police to their next target, Adam Freeman, Kings Cross nightclub owner and son of late underworld figure George Freeman. Freeman fled the country the day after his two friends were arrested but eventually returned home, handing himself in and in September pleading guilty to making a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug. His co-accused received nine years' jail and Freeman will be sentenced in the new year.

    It was NSW's largest mobile drug bust and it came about thanks to a random breath test.

    The Freeman bust was the result of CATCH - Crime and Traffic Connecting on Highways - a program adapted from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and introduced among more than 800 highway patrol officers across the state starting in 2009.

    Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn says it is aimed at having Highway Patrol officers not just focus on speeding, drunk drivers and unregistered cars but to look for other suspicious activity.

    ''It isn't this amazing formula that we haven't thought about before,'' Ms Burn says. ''But when we started CATCH it became about observational skills, some common sense, simple detection techniques, so if there is something illegal happening we are likely to detect it.''

    In the four years since the launch CATCH highway patrol officers have detected $86 million in drugs, firearms and stolen property.

    This month it resulted in officers pulling over an unregistered Holden Astra at Goulburn and finding a woman with 296 ecstasy tablets.

    In Punchbowl highway patrol officers this year pulled over a hire car and found a fully-loaded Beretta handgun and cocaine hidden in the driver's underpants.

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    May 2009
    Bikies charged in $3mil Sydney drug raid

    Police have allegedly seized drugs worth more than $3 million from a storage unit in Sydney's west.

    Approximately 1.8 kilograms of methylamphetamine was found in a search of the Minchinbury unit on Monday, police allege.

    Detectives then searched a Kellyville home, where they seized more than 220 grams of a substance believed to be methylamphetamine and a number of mobile phones.

    Two brothers - allegedly members of the Lone Wolf outlaw motorcycle gang - were charged with supplying a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs.

    A 33-year-old man was refused bail and is scheduled to appear in Mount Druitt Local Court on Tuesday.

    A 29-year-old man was also refused bail and was to appear in Parramatta Local Court on Tuesday.
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