A 26-year-old French national was arrested and charged today in Sydney for his alleged role in a European syndicate suspected of using tourists, including students and backpackers, to distribute illegal drugs imported from France.
Over a six-month period, a joint Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (ABF) operation has intercepted about 40 packages of MDMA and cocaine linked to the syndicate. The drugs, which have an estimated value of up to AUD 3.3 million, were hidden in wine bottles, potato chip packets and chilli paste that were either packed in luggage or sent via the post.
The operation has now resulted in three French nationals and one Belgian national being arrested and charged for their role in the syndicate since March 2018.
NSW Police have also arrested and charged eight people, including students and backpackers, for their role in trafficking the drugs.
AFP Detective Superintendent Paul Hopkins said the operation demonstrates the AFP and ABF’s shared commitment to stopping harmful drugs from reaching the Australian community.
“With about 40 packages of MDMA and cocaine seized, each ranging from 100gms to more than 200gms, this has been a complex and unique investigation,” Detective Superintendent Hopkins said.
“Together, these packages equate to a large commercial amount of illegal drugs that we know would have had significant and tragic impacts on individuals, families and whole communities.”
ABF Commander Investigations, Graeme Grosse, said the operation highlights the measures criminals use to import illegal drugs.
“The creative and ever-changing methods used by criminals to import drugs speak to the worrying demand for them in Australia. It also makes it clear stopping the inflow of drugs into our country is a whole-of-community issue, not just one for authorities to tackle,” Commander Grosse said.
“We hope this operation sends a message, if you’re thinking of buying, selling or transporting illicit drugs, the penalties are severe and it’s simply not worth the risk – we will catch you.”
The 26-year-old French national will attend Sydney Central Court this afternoon and face multiple charges of:
- Aid and abet, counsel or procure the importation of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug – contrary to sub-sections 11.2(1) and 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment or 7,500 penalty units, or both.
Two other French nationals, a man and a woman, and a Belgian man were arrested in Melbourne during 9-12 March 2018 in relation to the importation of 750gms of MDMA, valued at up to AUD 280,000, concealed in wine bottles. These people are currently remanded in custody to appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday 16 July 2018 where they will face the following charges:
- Import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug – contrary to section 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
- Aid and abet, counsel or procure the importation of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug – contrary to sub-sections 11.2(1) and 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth); and
- Deal with money or other property reasonably suspected of being the proceeds of Crime – contrary to section 400.9(1A) of the Criminal Code (Cth).