Sea cargo cocaine-import syndicate smashed


Operation Harmanecka started when the AFP uncovered an Australia and PNG-based syndicate suspected of planning to smuggle drugs into Australia from Peru, according to a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Queensland Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC.

AFP officers identified a sea container on a cargo vessel headed from Peru to Singapore late last year.

The container was then forwarded on to PNG where Police allege the syndicate expected to retrieve 300 kilograms of cocaine, which was to be imported into Australia via small craft through the Torres Strait. However there was no cocaine in the container when the container was opened in PNG.

The AFP worked closely with Peruvian authorities, identifying Peru-based people involved in conspiring with the Australian syndicate to arrange a second importation.

As the negotiations neared completion, Peruvian law enforcement dismantled the Peruvian syndicate and seized about 1.2 tonnes of cocaine.

The press release said among those arrested by Peruvian authorities was a Peruvian businessman who conspired with the Australia and PNG-based syndicate members.

Police raided addresses in the Sydney suburbs of Maroubra and Rozelle, arresting two men (57 and 63), charging them with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs.

Additionally, police raided two addresses in the Queensland suburbs of Woodridge and Airlie Beach, arresting one woman, 34, who was charged with dealing in proceeds of crime.

ABF Assistant Commissioner, enforcement command, Sharon Huey said Australian agencies work closely with PNG authorities to combat the threat of criminal groups attempting to use small craft to smuggle illicit goods through the Torres Strait.

“As well as maintaining a strong, visible presence in the region, the ABF and our partner agencies work closely with PNG Customs and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, to ensure the area is properly monitored and protected from criminal activity,” Assistant Commissioner Huey said.

“As this operation demonstrates, these partnerships allow agencies to effectively combine their resources and are successful in detecting and investigating illegal activity in the region.”

AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Bruce Hill, national manager organised crime, said the QJOCTF has achieved a terrific outcome that continues to highlight the success of the collaborative approach with international law enforcement agencies both in Australia and abroad.

“These arrests would not have been possible without the significant assistance provided by Peruvian, Singapore, Malaysian and PNG law enforcement,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Hill said.

“We will be relentless in our pursuit of transnational organised crime. This result is a clear example of what the combined powers of all of our agencies can achieve.”

QPS Assistant Commissioner Maurice Carless said Queensland police would continue to work with partner agencies to target and disrupt organised crime and the drug trade in our country.

“Organised criminal activity has no boundaries with its influences impacting on Queensland from interstate and internationally,” Assistant Commissioner Carless said.”

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