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Suspected Int'l Drug Smuggling Ring Dismantled

Suspected international drug smuggling syndicate dismantled

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has arrested three men who are alleged to be behind an international drug smuggling operation spanning three continents.

Two arrests in Melbourne and Canberra follow the apprehension of a 40-year-old Australian man in the Netherlands, after the AFP alerted Dutch police to his presence in Holland.

Arrest warrants were issued for the 40-year-old, alleged to be at the head of the syndicate, in three countries in November.

The AFP will ask the Australian Government to seek his extradition to Melbourne to face conspiracy charges of importing a marketable quantity of cocaine into Australia.

The AFP will allege in court that the syndicate, operating out of Australia, Canada and the Netherlands, conspired to import cocaine using a network of couriers internally concealing the drugs.

A 31-year-old Hawthorn man and a 37-year-old Canberra man also believed to be major organizers were arrested at their homes yesterday.

AFP National Manager Border Operations Roman Quaedvlieg said the internal couriers used by the syndicate were believed to have smuggled drugs into Australia and Canada via this method. Three drug couriers allegedly linked to the syndicate have already been previously arrested and further inquiries are continuing.

"This investigation has not only disrupted the activities of an international drug importation syndicate but has also potentially prevented couriers' lives being put at risk through the accidental rupturing of drug packages concealed in the body," Assistant Commissioner Quaedvlieg said.

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"Taking out the principals in this alleged drug syndicate will help disrupt the flow of illegal narcotics into both Australia and Canada. This operation depended heavily on international law enforcement cooperation from Canada and Holland. Its success is a testament to the efficacy of our cooperation with foreign police agencies."

"Importing drugs by internal bodily concealment is a particularly dangerous method of transporting narcotics, which has in the past resulted in the deaths of couriers," he said.

AFP agents yesterday executed search warrants at five inner-Melbourne premises in Southbank, Prahran, South Yarra, St Kilda and Hawthorn. They seized credit cards and materials which can be used in the production of narcotics.

A 31-year-old Hawthorn man was charged with a proceeds of crime offence in relation to the syndicate's activities.

AFP officers also executed a search warrant yesterday at Campbell in the ACT where a 37-year-old man was arrested and charged with conspiracy to import a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug.

He will be extradited to Melbourne today.

Documents, mobile phones and computers were seized at the Canberra address.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) provided valuable financial intelligence towards this operation.

The maximum penalty for the drug offences is a fine of $550,000 and/or 25 years imprisonment.


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