Four people have been charged by the Joint Organised Crime Group (JOCG) for their alleged involvement in the importation and manufacture of 720 litres methyl amphetamine with an estimated potential street value of more than a 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 methyl amphetamine was found con-cealed in art supplies and 2kg crystal-lised methyl amphetamine.
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 methyl amphetamine 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 methyl amphetamine 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).
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 are working harder than ever to prevent drugs from entering our country.
“The resolution of Operation Ovcharka has stopped a billion dollars-worth of ice from reaching our streets. Police working with our JOCG partner agencies continue to achieve significant ice seizures,” Commander Sheehan said.
ABF Regional Commander NSW, 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 methyl amphetamine and as the figures we’re announcing today show, we’re getting results. 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,” Commander Fitzgerald said.
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. 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,” Detective Chief Superintendent Ken Finch.
Australian Crime Commission NSW State Manager Warren Gray said that joint operations such as this one have a pivotal role to play in the fight against methyl amphetamine.
“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.”
The JOCG is a multiagency investigation group comprising the AFP, the NSW Police Force, ABF, NSW Crime Commission and the ACC.
During this operation the AFP worked also with Chinese authorities through Taskforce Blaze, which investigates criminal syndicates trafficking ice to Australia and internationally.
All charges attract a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.