(LAWFUEL) – Three Mexican nationals, two men and one woman, will face Melbourne MagistratesCourt this morning, charged with attempting to import 64.6kg of cocaine into Australia.
The joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (US ICE) has resulted in the disruption of a transnational syndicate and the prevention of cocaine with an estimated value of more than $16 million from being distributed on Australia’s streets.
AFP National Manager Border and International Tim Morris said the operation was a significant achievement for Australian and United States law enforcement. “The disruption of this transnational syndicate is an example of Australian and United States law enforcement agencies working together against the global problem of drug trafficking,” Assistant Commissioner Morris said. “This seizure has saved the Australian community more than $18.7 million in associated health and social costs.”
Customs National Manager Enforcement Operations, Malcolm Wright said Customs cooperates with a number of national and international law enforcement agencies, particularly in relation to drug and chemical precursors. “Customs uses sophisticated technology to target cargo, postal items and travellers and we remain focused on intercepting illicit drugs and other items that have the potential to harm the Australian community,” he said.
On 10 October 2008, US ICE working in conjunction with US Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) informed the AFP of detection of cocaine in cargo from the United States, which was destined for Melbourne.
The cocaine reportedly originated in Mexico and was concealed within four concrete cylinders weighing 210 kilograms each.
US ICE and US CBP in partnership with the AFP coordinated the transport of the shipment to Australia. The shipping consignment, which also included ceramic goods such as pots, planters and statues, travelled via Hong Kong and arrived in Melbourne on 22 November. The concrete cylinders were then replicated by AFP, US ICE and US CBP officers and a controlled delivery operation commenced.
On Friday 28 November, AFP officers arrested the three Mexican nationals in Springvale who had accessed the consignment in a storage facility. As a result, search warrants were executed on two residential addresses in Melbourne. Four other men were arrested and later released.
It will be alleged in court that the three Mexican citizens travelled from Mexico to Melbourne on 15 October 2008 and took delivery of the consignment on 28 November.
The following persons have been charged with attempting to import and conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995:
• a 39-year-old female Mexican citizen
• a 40-year-old male Mexican citizen
• a 28-year-old male Mexican citizen
The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment and/or a $825,000 fine.
The AFP would also like to acknowledge the support provided to this operation by the Australian Customs Service.