Four alleged members of a transnational serious organised crime syndicate operating in Melbourne will face court today (12 October, 2023), after authorities seized about 622kg of methamphetamine hidden inside a shipment of toilet paper rolls.
The Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF), comprising of members from the AFP, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and Department of Home Affairs, arrested the four men late yesterday and early this morning, following a major law enforcement investigation into a criminal syndicate suspected of importing border controlled drugs.
The investigation, known as Operation Improcco, included special assistance from the Victoria Police Clan Labs Squad.
Police will allege the men are linked to the alleged importation of 622kg of methamphetamine hidden inside a shipment of toilet paper, which arrived into Melbourne via sea cargo from Malaysia on 4 October, 2023.
The investigation began when ABF officers identified anomalies in a consignment during an x-ray screening and reported the matter to the AFP.
It will be alleged in court that JOCTF and AFP Forensics officers located and seized 622 green and gold tea packages, each weighing 1kg, containing a white crystalline substance, which were further concealed within a pallet of toilet paper.
This quantity of methamphetamine is the equivalent of more than 6.2 million individual street deals and could be sold for an estimated $559.8 million.
Forensic testing of the substance allegedly returned a positive result for methamphetamine.
On Wednesday 11 October, throughout the afternoon and evening, JOCTF members arrested four men allegedly part of the criminal syndicate at locations across Melbourne.
The arrests include two 33-year-old Chinese nationals, a Malaysian national, 34, and a Hong Kong national, 32.
It will be alleged that members of the JOCTF arrested one of the 33-year-old Chinese nationals and the 32-year-old Hong Kong national at Melbourne Airport as they separately attempted to board flights to leave Australia.
In addition, officers arrested the 34-year-old Malaysian national at a property in Sunshine North and the other 33-year-old Chinese national in Box Hill.
JOCTF members executed search warrants at a warehouse at Sunshine North and a storage facility at South Melbourne, along with residential properties in Box Hill, Blackburn and Glen Waverley, allegedly seizing evidence of the imports and electronic devices including mobile phones.
The men were all charged with one count of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drugs, namely 622 kg of methamphetamine, contrary to sections 307.5(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
They are expected to face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today (12 October, 2023).
This offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
AFP Commander Raegan Stewart said methamphetamine was an extremely addictive illicit drug and caused immense psychological, financial and social harm to users and those around them.
“Across Australia, 33 people on average were admitted to hospital every day in 2020-21 for methamphetamine-related issues*,” Commander Stewart said
“This significant seizure demonstrates the importance of the collaboration between the AFP and our state and Commonwealth law enforcement partners to disrupt attempts by organised crime to import illicit drugs into Victoria and profit at the expense of the community.”
“The illicit drug supply chain is littered with harm and had this amount of methamphetamine made its way onto our streets, it would have spread through our suburbs, fueling more violence, crime and drug addiction.”
Commander Stewart said the seizure of 622kg of methamphetamine and the arrest of four alleged criminal syndicate members should serve as a significant warning to those seeking to import illicit drugs into Australia.
“The AFP together with our Joint Organised Crime Taskforce partners will not stop. We will not stop working to track, identify and disrupt your criminal operations in order to keep Australians safe. And we will bring you to justice.”
Victoria Police Detective Acting Superintendent Dan Ryan, Organised Crime Division, said this seizure was a great result and a reminder to organised crime groups that Victoria Police remains focused on stopping illicit drugs from ending up in the community.
“The use of methylamphetamine per capita in Australia is matched by no other nation in the world, and the devastating and tragic damage caused by its use ripples throughout the community,” Det A/Supt Ryan said.
“Victoria is no different and the harm this drug inflicts on the community has the potential to have significant and life changing impacts on a range of innocent parties.
“We see it translate directly into a broad range of areas including road trauma, family violence, homicides, shootings and other violent offending intrinsically linked to the illicit drug trade.
“Our work does not stop with this seizure and these arrests. Alongside our law enforcement partners, we will look to chase up every avenue of enquiry possible as a result of this investigation and we will continue to disrupt the importation of illicit drugs into Victoria.”
ABF Commander Clint Sims said organised crime syndicates are relentless in their efforts to flood our shores with illicit substances like methamphetamine.
“Methamphetamine is by far the most consumed and imported illicit substance in Australia, but while these criminal syndicates are relentless in their activities, so are we,” Commander Sims said.
“ABF officers dedicate a significant amount of time at the border to prevent narcotics reaching our shores and causing significant harm to our community. With help from our law enforcement partners we will continue to foil attempts such as this one and I congratulate everyone involved in this mammoth result.”
*Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.