[15th June 2018] Law enforcement agencies of Australia, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) joined hands to book drug traders. Conspiracy to import cocaine with street value of $105 million was busted by these agencies.

Conspiracy was to import 300 kilograms of cocaine into Australia from Peru via Singapore and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Two men were arrested by the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Task Force (QJOCTF). One woman was arrested on charges of dealing in proceeds of crime.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) started Operation Harmanecka, in June 2017, after they felt Australian and a PNG based syndicate is planning to import drugs to Australia from Peru. AFP’s International Liaison Network and Peruvian authorities identified a number of Peruvian-based nationals conspiring with the Australian syndicate.

Two men (aged 57 and 63) were arrested from Sydney suburbs of Maroubra and Rozelle. They are expected to be charged with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs. It is not clear if they routed the imports through a customs broker based in Brisbane, Queensland to legitimise their activities or not. The maximum penalty for this offense is life imprisonment. A woman (aged 34) arrested in Woodridge is expected to be charged with dealing in proceeds of crime.

According to Dr John Moss, AUSTRAC National Manager Intelligence, the success of this operation shows the aligned resolve of Australian and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies in curbing transnational organised crime. This is possible by cooperation across international borders and law enforcement jurisdictions to pool intelligence and capabilities to combat organised crime.

Bruce Hill, AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner and National Manager Organised Crime, said the QJOCTF has achieved a terrific success of the collaborative approach with international law enforcement agencies both in Australia and abroad. This result is a clear example of what the combined powers of all of our agencies can achieve.
All agencies involved are continuing with investigations and additional arrests are expected in the near future.


The Australian Border Force Unearth Illegal Cigarette Manufacturing

[25th May 2018] The Australian Border Force (ABF) has successfully unearthed illegal cigarette manufacturing facilities in Ravenhall. In this connection, ABF has arrested a Melbourne man for alleged illegal importation of around 10 tonnes of illicit tobacco into Australia. This operation involves an estimated $10 million in duty evaded.

ABF began its investigation targeting a storage facility at Ravenhall in October 2017. In April, 2018 A second facility was identified. ABF used detector dogs to investigate more units at both locations.

With additional investigation inputs and positive indications from tobacco detector dogs, officers from the Tobacco Strike Team went ahead with warrant activity at both facilities on 22 May. This in turn, unearthed 8-9 tonnes of loose leaf tobacco and empty cigarette tubes. Also several tonnes of dried plant matter which can be used as cigarette filler. Any connection to a Perth CBD based customs broker in providing professional services and/or advice in this case has not been substantiated at this stage.

On 23 May, the ABF executed further warrants at one residential and two commercial properties. ABF found evidence of a cigarette manufacturing operation including 250 kilograms of loose leaf tobacco in the residential property. At the commercial premises they found approximately 15,000 filled cigarettes.

A 43 year-old-man was apprehended by ABF officers. He was returning to the storage facility at Ravenhall in a van, allegedly carrying 800 kilograms of tobacco. He can face a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and or a fine of up to five times the amount of duty evaded.

Susan Black, ABF Special Investigations Commander said the operation marks another successful outcome for the ABF Tobacco Strike Team. The commander also said that the focus of the task force will be to focus on investigating, disrupting, dismantling and prosecuting syndicates that trade in illicit tobacco.

Australian Border Force has on its records 52,500 detections of illicit tobacco during 2017/18 financial year to date (to 31 March 2018). Detection include 129 tonnes of loose leaf and molasses tobacco and 173 million cigarettes. This involves a total duty evasion $230 million.

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