Multi-agency investigation dismantles large-scale drug syndicate across NSW

Police have arrested five people and seized over $3 million worth of MDMA across the Illawarra and Tweed regions as part of a multi-agency investigation into the manufacturing and mass supply of illicit drugs.

In March 2024, officers attached to State Crime Command’s Raptor Squad and Lake Illawarra Police District – as well as the NSW Crime Commission, Australian Border Force (ABF) and Queensland Police Service – commenced an investigation under Strike Force Culti into the manufacturing and supply of MDMA across eastern Australia.

The investigation was launched after ABF officers in Queensland examined a number of packages that were found to contain approximately 50 kilograms of a precursor to MDMA. ABF investigators identified that the syndicate had been importing since August 2023, with approximately 150kg of the precursor seized since that time.

Following extensive investigations, strike force officers – with assistance from Lake Illawarra and Tweed/Byron Police District – executed ten search warrants on properties in Tullimbar, Yallah, Calderwood, Albion Park and Kingscliff on Wednesday 5 June 2024. On the same day ABF investigators and Queensland police executed a search warrant on a property in Flagstone, Queensland.

During the search of the Illawarra properties, police located and seized over 8.7kg of MDMA, 140 grams of cocaine, two firearms, ammunition, $64,000 in cash, a Ford Raptor, a Porsche Carrera and a pill press.

During the search of the Kingscliff property, police and ABF officers located a large clandestine laboratory in the home.

Specialist police from the State Crime Command Chemical Operations Team were deployed and dismantled the lab, locating and seizing over one thousand litres of precursor for MDMA and methamphetamine.

During the search of the Flagstone property, police and ABF officers located and seized several electronic devices.

The total street value of all drugs seized during the investigation was $3.1 million.

Police arrested two men during the searches – a 35-year-old at the Albion Park property and a 34-year-old at a Tullimbar property.

They were both taken to Lake Illawarra Police Station where the older man was charged with 10 charges relating to large-scale drug manufacture and supply, as well as two counts of deal with property proceeds of crime less than $100000, knowingly direct activities of a criminal group, possess ammunition without holding licence/permit/authority, and fail to comply digital evidence access order direction.

The younger man was charged with supply prohibited drug large commercial quantity, supply prohibited drug indictable and commercial quantity, deal with property proceeds of crime less than $100000, participate criminal group contribute criminal activity and fail to comply digital evidence access order direction.

Both men were refused bail and appeared before Wollongong Local Court on Thursday 6 June 2024 where they were formally refused bail to appear before the same court on Wednesday 31 July 2024.

On the same day Australian Border Force officers and Queensland Police arrested an 18-year-old man and 44-year-old man in Southport.

They have both been charged with importation offences and remain before the Queensland courts.

Following further investigations, about 6.30am on Friday 7 June 2024, police arrested a 33-year-old man at White Bay Cruise Terminal.

He was taken to Newtown Police Station where he was charged with six charges related to large-scale drug manufacture and supply, as well as participate criminal group contribute criminal activity and possess unauthorised firearm.

The 33-year-old was refused bail to appear before Downing Centre Local Court the same day where he was formally refused bail to appear before the same court on Tuesday 6 August 2024.

Investigations under Strike Force Culti continue.

Anyone with information that may assist investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.

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