This article was originally published via https://www.thedcn.com.au/.
THE AUSTRALIAN Federal Police have charged three men in Sydney as part of an investigation into a Mexican organised crime syndicate that police suspect imports hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine into Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Operation Eldia began in May after several shipments of methamphetamine were uncovered. The drugs were hidden in plastic pallets carrying various commodities. Also, methamphetamine and cocaine was found hidden in electrical transformers were seized in Los Angeles, Sydney, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Police allege 375 kilograms of methamphetamine from five consignments seized by the AFP and its partners in Sydney and Los Angeles between April and February this year were sent from Los Angeles by this syndicate.
Also, authorities allege another 447 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine and 120 kilograms of cocaine hidden in shipments of electrical transformers and organised by this syndicate were seized in Hong Kong in February and March.
A further 106 kilograms were seized in New Zealand in February. These shipments were suspected to have been destined for distribution in Australia.
A key breakthrough in the investigation occurred in February, when US Customs and Border Protection officers found more than 85 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden inside 13 plastic pallets in Los Angeles.
CPB reported the 85-kilogram methamphetamine seizure to the AFP for investigation.
The methamphetamine was removed in Los Angeles and the plastic pallets were then delivered to Australia.
On their arrival in Sydney, AFP officers reconstructed the plastic pallets with an inert substance and conducted a controlled delivery in Sydney.
The AFP will allege two US nationals, aged 42 and 34, arrived in Sydney in April from Fiji and the US to facilitate this importation.
A Sydney man, 40, was the alleged Australian based contact for the syndicate and the director of a fruit and groceries company operating in the Hornsby area of Sydney.
Police will allege the 42-year-old man was the principal organiser of the importation, while the other US man allegedly organised the logistics in Australia, such as renting a storage unit, transporting the pallets and purchasing tools and scales.
The AFP delivered the plastic pallets to a storage facility in the south-western Sydney suburb of Bexley on 26 April. Police say the three men later transferred the pallets to a different storage facility in Pymble, on Sydney’s north shore.
On 27 April police say the US nationals were seen removing dismantled pallets and garbage bags containing unknown items from the storage unit.
The AFP raided a unit in the Sydney suburb of Marsden Park later that day, where the US nationals were allegedly residing.
Police seized garbage bags allegedly containing the reconstructed packages of substituted drugs from the plastic pallets, and a mobile phone allegedly containing photos of the reconstructed pallets and glass beakers with an unknown substance in liquid.
The US men were arrested and charged with one count each of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
The maximum penalty for this offence is 25 years’ imprisonment.
On 1 May, the AFP raided a home connected to the Sydney man in Newtown.
The Sydney man was arrested and charged with the same offence as the US nationals.
AFP Detective Superintendent Kristie Cressy said shared intelligence with international law enforcement partners was crucial to revealing the widespread operations of this drug trafficking syndicate.
“The relationship the AFP shares with its international law enforcement partners was crucial to obtaining and analysing the intelligence that directly resulted in the seizure of 375kg of illicit drugs around the world,” she said.
“The arrest of three people here in Australia and their connection to a wider Mexican-based cartel gives us valuable insight into the operations of organised crime groups and will help us and our partners create a hostile environment for them to operate in.”