MIL-OSI Australia: IRONSIDE: Six people charged over failed drug importation

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Source: Australian Federal Police

Editor’s note: arrest footage is available via Hightail

Six people have been charged over a failed plan to import a large quantity of drugs into Sydney via an international aircraft.

The investigation began in March 2019 when the AFP arrested two men and seized 38kg of methamphetamine, which had been imported into Sydney via an Air Canada flight.

Following these arrests, the AFP Sydney Aviation Investigations team identified a man suspected of acting as an overseer of the importation within the airport precinct. Police allege the man used an encrypted device and a ‘burner’ phone to communicate with an extended criminal syndicate.

On 10 June 2021, police executed search warrants in Liverpool, NSW, where they seized approximately $100,000 in cash and charged a man and a woman.

AFP intelligence gathering during Operation Ironside revealed this syndicate had begun planning another importation through Sydney Airport in late 2019. Police will allege the syndicate consisted of people with trusted insider access at the airport, who used encrypted devices to communicate.

Police will allege in court the six members of the criminal syndicate, who consisted of past and present employees of a service provider at the airport, planned to import an unknown amount of border controlled drugs concealed within a cargo box in the hold of a commercial aircraft on 7 March 2020. The importation did not occur due to reduced flight schedules as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the syndicate undertook significant planning toward this endeavor. This included distributing encrypted AMOM devices to each of the six members and canvassing for suitable exchange locations within the airside area of Sydney Airport.

Following further investigation, officers charged the six syndicate members on Wednesday (13 October 2021) with offences relating to the failed importation. The men were charged as follows:

  • A 32-year-old Oatley man and a 37-year-old Rockdale man were charged with direct one or more activities of a criminal organisation that was involved in the importation of border controlled drugs contrary to section 390.6(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • A 31-year old Mortdale man, a 32-year-old Liverpool man, and a 47-year-old Banksia man were charged with provide material support and resources to aid a criminal organisation that was involved in the importation of border controlled drugs contrary to section 390.4(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth); and
  • A 36-year-old Cronulla man was charged with associate with members of a criminal organisation that was involved in the importation of border controlled drugs, for the purpose of supporting this serious organized criminal activity contrary to section 390.3(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The 32-year-old Liverpool man is scheduled to appear before Downing Centre District Court on 9 November 2021.

The other men are scheduled to appear before Downing Centre District Court on 16 November 2021.

Detective Inspector Scott Sykes said Operation Ironside continues to deliver investigative leads for police, and the AFP was increasingly focusing on targeting trusted insiders working in Australia’s busiest airport.

“We ask all people that utilise the airport for work or pleasure to be vigilant and if you see or hear something that is unusual or suspicious, please report it to the AFP on 131 AFP or in emergencies call 000,” Detective Inspector Scott Sykes said.

“These further charges show the AFP is continuing to utilise intelligence gained through Operational Ironside to target trusted insiders and other criminal enterprises within the aviation environment. We warned criminals that we would be coming for them in the future and we will continue to do so.

“People using their jobs at or access to Sydney Aviation Precinct to facilitate illegal activity for organised crime groups are going to be the target of increased AFP attention, and we are committed to ensuring the integrity and lawful operation of passenger and cargo operations into the future.”

Note to media:

Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.

  • For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
  • Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online at www.counsellingonline.org.au.
  • For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to www.turningpoint.org.au.
Media enquiries

AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297

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