Australia : A joint police operation in Tasmania and Queensland with transnational connections has led to the arrest of six men including four members of the Rebels Motorcycle Club, on charges relating to the alleged trafficking, possession and importation of more than 8kg of amphetamine from the United Kingdom.
The drugs are believed to have an estimated street value of at least $20 million.
The Australian Crime Commission-led Eligo National Task Force coordinated the operation which involved Tasmania Police, Queensland Police Service, Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) in partnership with West Mercia Police (UK).
Australian Crime Commission National Manager of Investigations, Richard Grant said the syndicate, which was allegedly operating both domestically and internationally, was identified as a result of ACC intelligence.
“The investigation indicated the men were planning to import several packages of illicit drugs through an international parcel courier service,” he said.
“As a result, Tasmania Police and ACBPS officials intercepted two packages sent from the United Kingdom which contained approximately 4kg of amphetamines. Two further packages totalling another 4kg were later intercepted in Queensland.”
On 28th July 2014, the National Anti-Gangs Squad (NAGS) led a controlled operation and search warrants in Queensland with support from Queensland Police Task Force Maxima and the Australian Crime Commission.
This led to the arrest of a 27-year-old Tasmanian man living in Queensland, alleged to be a member of the Rebels OMCG and another man in Queensland. The searches also led to the arrest of three men in Tasmania including a 26-year-old member of the Rebels OMCG.
Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, officers from West Mercia Police Serious and Organised Crime Unit arrested a 27-year-old man from Kidderminster in Liverpool yesterday. He was questioned and has since been released on police bail pending further inquiries.
West Mercia’s Detective Inspector Carl Moore said they have been keen to share intelligence and expertise with their Australian counterparts.
“If it leads us to criminality taking place in the UK, all the better.”
“We will now be working together to ensure our efforts leads to charges for those we believe have been involved in the criminal drugs trafficking operation,” he said.
The Australian arrests come as law enforcement continues to crack down on the Rebels as part of the Attero National Task Force which is focussed on disrupting, disabling and dismantling their criminal activities.
AFP National Manager Serious and Organised Crime Ramzi Jabbour said that these results should serve as a warning to organised crime groups operating in Australia.
The NAGS provides existing support to state task forces and the opportunity to enhance and support investigations, as well as the ability to access information, intelligence and capabilities of federal agencies, including the AFP’s international network.
This joint operation involving the NAGS is an excellent example of the AFP cooperates with partner law enforcement agencies, at a state, federal and international level.
Tasmania Police Assistant Commissioner Donna Adams said the investigation had dealt a significant blow to the Tasmania drugs market and should be an indication to the rest of the country, and overseas, that illicit drugs drug will not be tolerated.
“Criminal entities including OMCGs are developing in sophistication. This is why collaborative efforts by law enforcement agencies are an important element in staying ahead of the game,” Assistant Commissioner Adams said.
“Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS) are the second most widely used illicit drug in Australia and Tasmania is not immune. Tasmania Police, in conjunction with our state and Commonwealth partner agencies, will continue to proactively investigate all reports of illicit drug manufacture and drug trafficking.”
ACBPS Regional Commander Victoria and Tasmania Don Smith said Customs and Border Protection officers in Tasmania were involved in the operation through intelligence gathering, surveillance activity, parcel examinations and search warrants.
“Our detector dogs and mobile x-ray van were also on site,” Mr Smith said.
“By having a close relationship with federal and state counterparts, we are able to disrupt organised crime and ensure criminals are held accountable for their actions.”
Task Force Maxima Commander Superintendent Mick Niland from Queensland reinforced the need for law enforcement to work together.
“The collaboration of national law enforcement agencies was instrumental in the success of this operation – it is through a united and committed approach criminal gangs such as the Rebels will be dismantled,” he said.
The men arrested in Tasmania will face Hobart Magistrates Court, while the Queensland men front Southport Magistrates Court, this morning.
The Eligo National Task Force was established in 2012 as an Australian Crime Commission-led special investigation into the use of alternative remittance and informal value transfer systems by serious and organised crime. Since then it has seized more than $665 million worth of drugs and assets, including $38.5 million in cash.
The task force comprises the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the AFP, in partnership with the ACBPS and state and territory police.