Four people have been charged by the Joint Organised Crime Group (JOCG) for their alleged involvement in the importation and manufacture of 720 litres of methylamphetamine with an estimated potential street value of more than one billion dollars.
On 8 November 2015 the JOCG established Operation Ovcharka to investigate potential drug importation and supply from Asia, destined for the Australian market.
Between 23 and 30 December 2015 the JOCG executed four search warrants at storage facilities in Hurstville, Rockdale, Miranda and Padstow.
Around 530 litres of liquid methylamphetamine was found concealed in art supplies, plus 2kg crystallised methylamphetamine.
On 26 December 2015 Australian Border Force (ABF) officers examined a consignment from Hong Kong at the NSW Container Examination Facility.
Around 190 litres of liquid methylamphetamine was discovered concealed inside thousands of silicon bra inserts amongst the consignment of 86 boxes.
On 14 January 2016 the JOCG conducted a controlled delivery of the consignment of bra inserts to a storage facility in Burwood and a 33-year-old Hong Kong national was arrested.
He was charged with importing a border controlled drug, contrary to Section 307.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995.
On 25 January 2016, the JOCG uncovered evidence of drug manufacturing at two Sydney residences in Hurstville and Campsie, alleged to be linked to the liquid methylamphetamine seized in art supplies.
A 59-year-old male Chinese national was arrested at Hurstville.
A 37-year-old male Hong Kong national and a 52-year-old female Hong Kong national were arrested at Campsie.
All three were charged with knowingly taking part in the manufacture of a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, contrary to section 24 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW).
All charges attract a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Investigations remain ongoing and further charges have not been ruled out.
The male arrested in Burwood is scheduled to appear at Central Local Court on 11 March 2016 while the remaining three will appear on 23 March 2016.
AFP State Manager NSW Commander Chris Sheehan said police and their law-enforcement partners were working harder than ever to prevent drugs from entering Australia.
“The resolution of Operation Ovcharka has stopped a billion dollars-worth of ice from reaching our streets,” Commander Sheehan said.
“Police working with our JOCG partner agencies continue to achieve significant ice seizures.”
ABF Regional Commander NSW Commander Tim Fitzgerald said the initial detection on Boxing Day proved that law enforcement was alert to the risk of illicit narcotic importation, including over the Christmas period.
“People should be under no illusion – the ABF is targeting the importation of methylamphetamine and as the figures we’re announcing today show, we’re getting results,” Commander Fitzgerald said.
“With the combined attention of Australia’s law-enforcement agencies focused on this issue, the risk of illicit drug smuggling just isn’t worth it.”
NSW Police Force Organised Crime Director Detective Chief Superintendent Ken Finch commended officers for their commitment to the operation, particularly over the Christmas/New Year period.
“Our squad works 365 days a year to combat transnational organised crime, which could impact NSW,” Detective Chief Superintendent Finch said.
“The dedication of our detectives and the members of our partner agencies has seen four people being placed before the courts and ensured these dangerous drugs did not reach the streets of Sydney.”
Australian Crime Commission NSW State Manager Warren Gray said that joint operations such as this one had a pivotal role to play in the fight against methylamphetamine.
“The ACC has assessed that methyl amphetamine poses – by far – the greatest threat to the Australian public of all illicit drug types, and by a significant margin,” Mr Gray said.
The JOCG is a multiagency investigation group comprising the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police Force, Australian Border Force, NSW Crime Commission and the Australian Crime Commission.
During this operation the AFP also worked with Chinese authorities through Taskforce Blaze, which investigates criminal syndicates trafficking ice to Australia and internationally.