Two NSW men charged in connection to a $2bn meth import plot

Two Sydney men have been charged with attempting to possess 800kg of methamphetamine destined for Australia in 2023, following an investigation into a global drug trafficking syndicate resulting in the arrest of eight people.

The men, 26 and 34, appeared in the Downing Centre Local Court yesterday (20 February, 2024) after they were arrested at Hinchinbrook and Canley Vale in Sydney’s southwest.

The Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF), launched the investigation – codenamed Operation Parkes – in January 2023 after Canadian authorities alerted the AFP that 2900 litres of liquid methamphetamine, concealed in 180 bottles of canola oil, was destined for Australia.

In total, authorities stopped nearly seven and a half tonnes of liquid methamphetamine, worth about $2 billion, from arriving in Australia in five separate ventures across several months last year.

Police will allege the two men were directed to transport and store what they thought was methamphetamine in locations across western Sydney.

Police replaced the methamphetamine with a harmless substance before it had been released for delivery in Australia.

The investigation by JOCTF, which comprises the AFP, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force (ABF), and the Department of Home Affairs, was supported by NSW Police and Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group partners.

Six men – including the two alleged facilitators of the attempted importations – were arrested in July 2023. They remain before the courts.

The NSW men have each been charged with one count of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, relating to 800kg of methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.5, by virtue of section 11.1, of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

Detective Superintendent Jason McArthur said the alleged transnational drug trafficking syndicate posed a national security threat, considering the sheer size of the attempted importations.

“The AFP is one of the key protectors of the way of life for all Australians. We are committed to stopping serious organised crime groups seeking to profit from the harm they inflict on Australian communities,” Det-Supt McArthur said.

“This investigation shows that the AFP and partners do not end investigations after the first arrests – we will try to identify anyone involved in these harmful drug trafficking ventures and put them before the courts.

“These criminals undermine the economy, social security system and financial system in all countries where they operate.

“The AFP is well-placed to disrupt the criminal elements who wish to traffic border-controlled drugs to our country, with members based in 33 countries and established offshore partnerships with international law enforcement agencies.”

Victoria Police Organised Crime Division Detective Superintendent David Cowan said the dismantling of the crime syndicate responsible for these attempted importations is a significant win for police globally and for the community.

“There is no doubt that they will take a massive monetary hit as a result of this outcome, which is crucial for us as we work to target these syndicates in any and every way possible”, Det-Supt Cowan said.

“The methamphetamine market is unrivalled in consumption, harm and serious and organised crime involvement compared with other illicit drugs.

“If that wasn’t enough, the use of methamphetamine contributes to unacceptably high levels of harm in our community through drug driving, drug-fuelled assaults, drug-fuelled family violence and heightened risk-taking.

“Alongside our partners, we will continue making this state as hostile an environment as possible for anyone associated with the trafficking of drugs.”

ABF Acting Commander Maritime and Enforcement South Dan Peters said ABF officers continued to work tirelessly at the border to prevent illicit drugs from hitting Australian streets.

“The Australian border is a critical national asset and our first line of defence against criminals who seek to profit at the expense of our community’s safety,” Acting Commander Peters said.

“The illicit drug trade continues to impact upon many Australians, causing immense harm to individuals and families, and the ABF remains determined to detect and disrupt criminal groups from importing illicit substances such as methamphetamine into our country.

“Criminals are on notice – no matter where you are attempting to import or move your drugs, the ABF and our partner agencies will be positioned ready to stop you.”

Both men were formally refused bail. The younger man will appear at the same court on 4 March, 2024 while the other man will return to court on 10 April, 2024.

/Public Release. View in full here.