Pubdate: Tue, 02 May 2000
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Copyright: 2000 The Sydney Morning Herald
Contact:  GPO Box 3771, Sydney NSW 2001
Fax: +61-(0)2-9282 3492
Author: Mark Riley, Herald Correspondent In New York


Investigators suspect a major organised crime syndicate in California was
behind the alleged shipment of $10 million of ecstasy intercepted in Italy
last week, over which Australian Simon Main has been charged.

The United States Drug Enforcement Authority and Customs Service are
investigating 30-year-old Main's background and that of the other man
arrested, Briton Alex Bruell, to see if they are linked to known crime

Investigators say Main made several trips in and out of the US this year.
They will now try to trace his movements for clues to who else might have
been involved in the alleged smuggling operation.

Main (whose mother is a former partner of entertainer Barry Crocker) has
been detained and charged over the seizure and is in a Trieste prison.

He has told Italian police he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when
drug squad officers arrested Bruell, a resident of California, in Italy last

Bruell is charged with possession of $10 million worth of ecstasy, allegedly
destined for Los Angeles.

Italian authorities allege the seizure of 80 kilograms of ecstasy was
connected to another of about 120,000 tablets smuggled into the US inside
wooden furniture sent from Europe.

Main has told Italian police he was a journalist working as a Los Angeles
correspondent for a Sydney publication. A spokeswoman for the Australian
Embassy in Washington said no journalist of that name was registered on its
list of media correspondents.

A US Customs spokesman, Mr Dean Boyd, said the amount of ecstasy being
smuggled into the US from Europe had skyrocketed over the past year and that
Los Angeles was considered the hub for distribution across the US.

"We know there are some very powerful elements of the criminal community who
are involved in ecstasy importation there," Mr Boyd said. "They are some of
the biggest organised crime figures in the US and they are working with even
more powerful criminal elements in Europe."

About 4.3 million tablets have been seized by US Customs since October,
compared with only 750,000 for all of 1998.

Mr Boyd said organised crime figures were attracted to the trade by the huge
profits from placing steep mark-ups on the drugs.

One ecstasy tablet could be manufactured for as little as US20c (34c) in
Europe, but could sell for between $US30 and $US40 on the streets, he said.
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