St George links to drug syndicate

Charges: A Brighton-Le-Sands man is arrested on Tuesday as part of Operation Astatine. Picture: NSW Police

Charges: A Brighton-Le-Sands man is arrested on Tuesday as part of Operation Astatine. Picture: NSW Police

Four men and a woman from St George are among nine people arrested as part of an investigation into the importation of drugs and tobacco into Australia.

Operation Astatine was launched early last year to investigate a NSW-based criminal network involved in drug trafficking and tobacco smuggling.

The investigation includes members of the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the NSW Crime Commission.

Police will allege in court that the syndicate conspired to import 200 kilograms of MDMA by ship and were also responsible for smuggling 50 million cigarettes into Australia.

On Tuesday, August 8, a two-day operation was launched targeting members allegedly connected to the syndicate.

A total of 13 search warrants were executed at dozens of Sydney homes.

A controlled delivery, using a substituted inert substance, was carried out in Sydney on Tuesday and delivered to an address in Rosebery. A 52-year-old Queensland man was later arrested for allegedly transporting and accessing the substance.

During the search warrants this week, seized around 80 kg of cocaine at an address in Rosebery, and $740,000 cash across four properties in Edmonson Park, St Peters, Hurstville and Arncliffe.

A further $2 million was also seized during the course of the investigation.

A second parallel investigation - codenamed Operation Zeus - was launched into an ABF officer, who has been charged for allegedly using his position to assist the syndicate avoid police.

A former Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officer has also been charged with similar offences regarding her alleged conduct during the period of this investigation.

A 47-year-old NSW man was arrested in the United Arab Emirates by the Dubai police anti-narcotics department.

Police are currently seeking his extradition.

Other people arrested include:

A Rockdale man, 54, has been charged with offences relating to drug importation, directing a criminal group, conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and smuggling (tobacco).

A second Rockdale man, 42, has also been charged with offences relating to drug importation, directing a criminal group, conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and smuggling (tobacco).

An Arncliffe man, 44, is charged with offences relating to aid and abet drug importation and participating in a criminal group.

A Mascot man, 58, is charged with offences relating to smuggling and dealing with proceeds of crime.

A Benowa man, 52, is charged with offences relating to attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs.

An Edmonson Park man, 51, is charged with offences relating to smuggling and dealing with proceeds of crime.

A Brighton-Le-Sands man, 42, is charged with offences including smuggling, bribery, abuse of public office, assisting a criminal group, unauthorised access (computer) and dealing in the proceeds of crime.

A Hurstville woman, 41, is charged with offences including conspiracy to bribe, smuggling, assisting a criminal group and dealing in proceeds of crime.

AFP Coordinator of Organised Crime and Cyber, Detective Superintendent Stephen Dametto, said that a high degree of sophistication and collaboration was required to combat these groups.

“This operation is a warning to organised crime targeting Australia that hiding on the other side of the world won’t save you,’’ he said.

‘’Once you are in our sights, we will focus our efforts on causing you and your predatory criminal activities as much damage as possible.’’

NSW Police Commander Organised Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook praised the work of investigators.

“Today’s operation brings to a conclusion 10 months of hard work by the members of the NSW JOCG and has resulted in an excellent outcome for the NSW community,” he said.

“The transnational nature of organised crime in NSW is now highly-complex and difficult to combat, yet the resolve of your police is unwavering. We will continue to develop our partnerships, locally, nationally and internationally to ensure we have the reach necessary to crush organised crime activities impacting NSW.”

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