Pubdate: Thu, 29 Dec 2016
Source: Business Insider (U.S.)
Copyright: 2016 Business Insider Inc.
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Author: Christopher Woody


Police took down a Sydney crime syndicate and made 'the largest cocaine
seizure in Australian ... history'

[photo] An Australian investigator unloads cargo from a seize boat,
December 2016. Australian Federal Police

Australian police dismantled a major cocaine smuggling ring after a
two-and-a-half-year multi-agency operation undertaken with Tahiti,
Australian authorities announced on Thursday.

Operation Okesi, which began in July 2014, culminated in a Christmas-night
seizure of 500 kilograms of cocaine in New South Wales in eastern

That seizure came after 606 kg of the drug were intercepted by the French
navy off Tahiti in March this year and after 32 kg of heroin was seized in
Fiji in December 2014.

"The size of that seizure collectively -- 1.1 tonnes [2,425 pounds] --
makes it the largest cocaine seizure in Australian law-enforcement
history," Australian Federal Police acting Assistant Commissioner Chris
Sheehan said.

"The criminal syndicate that we have dismantled over the past few days was
a robust, resilient and determined syndicate," he added.

All of the drugs were reportedly destined for the Australian market, and
the cocaine, which originated in South America, reportedly had a value of
$260 million.

Packages of what is believed to be cocaine seized in an Australian police
operation, December 2016. Australian Federal Police

Police began making busts on December 25, when detectives intercepted 500
kg of cocaine on a rubber boat as it pulled into a boat ramp at Brooklyn
on central coast of New South Wales.

The operation led to the arrest of 15 men, ranging in age from 29 to 63,
who were detained between December 25 and 28. Reportedly among them was a
former player for the Sydney Roosters rugby team.

According to Sydney's Daily Telegraph, police will allege that the ring
used Sydney Fish Market-based trawler Dalrymple, which was taken out to
see to rendezvous with a "mother ship" that had traveled from South

The smuggling ring allegedly used such trawlers to move cocaine into
Australia from Chile, which is known to be a major transshipment point for
cocaine coming out of South America and has become Australia's primary
source country for the drug.

South America is the global hub of cocaine production. UN World Drug
Report 2016

The operation began in summer 2014 as an investigation of suspected drug
smuggling by commercial fishermen in Sydney. The three drug busts mounted
since then were some of five alleged conspiracies identified by
authorities during their investigation.

Sheehan, of the Australian Federal Police, called the alleged drug ring
"selfish" and "brazen."

The total value of the cocaine seized, about $260 million, works out to a
little over $236,000 a kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) and is in line with the
$228,000 to $259,000 a kilogram wholesale-price range that cocaine is
believed to fetch on the Australian market -- well above the average
wholesale price of $87,000 in the UK and $54,000 in the US.

Australia is thought to have been the target of several Mexican cartels
seeking to expand into Asian-Pacific drug markets and fill the vacuum left
by the dismantling of previously dominant Colombian trafficking groups.

Several of the men detained during an Australian counter-drug operation,
December 2016. Australian Federal Police

The presence of Mexican cartels in Australia was first noted in 2010, when
several Mexican citizens with ties to cartel groups were arrested in
counter-drug operations.

Its size notwithstanding, the operation that culminated on December 25 is
only the most recent major drug bust in Australia.

In October, two Polish nationals were accused of importing $110 million
worth of ecstasy to the country in a shipment of sheet metal from the
Czech Republic.

At the end of August, three Canadian tourists were arrested aboard a
cruise ship in Sydney after authorities said they found 200 pounds of
cocaine in their luggage. Two of the tourists -- women ages 28 and 22 --
gained international attention after it was revealed they had documented
their entire trip on Instagram.

All told, in the last fiscal year, Australia's border authorities
uncovered 18,000 narcotics-importation attempts.

New South Wales Police Force Commissioner Mark Jenkins said over 100
officers worked over Christmas and Boxing Day to bring the alleged drug
ring down, according to The Daily Telegraph.

"It's quite a chuck out of the cocaine economy," he said.
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