23 September 2019

Two men arrested after 384 kilograms of cocaine found inside excavator

| Lachlan Roberts
Join the conversation

A screen grab of the X-ray test of the excavator, which found 384 packages of cocaine.

In the largest ever drug interception operation coordinated by ACT Policing, around 384 kilograms of cocaine have been seized and two men charged with drug importation offences.

The joint operation began earlier this year when ACT Policing received a tip-off about a drug importation syndicate operating in southern NSW and ACT.

In June, a second-hand excavator was intercepted at Port Botany in Sydney from South Africa. The excavator was x-rayed at the Sydney Container Examination Facility and anomalies were identified in the x-ray image.

Around 384 kilograms of cocaine worth around $144 million in street value was discovered in the hydraulic boom in the arm of the excavator.

Border Force and Australian Federal Police officers cut into the arm of the excavator where they found 384 packages of cocaine, each weighing a kilogram.

Following a controlled delivery of the excavator this week, two Karabar men aged 33 and 34 were arrested at their business premises in Bungendore on Sunday (14 July). Both men were charged with the importation of a commercial quantity of border controlled drug and attempting to possess a border controlled drug.

They appeared in the Queanbeyan Magistrates Court on Monday (15 July) where they were remanded.

ACT Policing CPO Ray Johnson said the two men, who have connections to ACT bikie gangs, could face life in prison.

“As a result of the investigation, two people have been charged, with a max penalty of life imprisonment,” he said. “It is clear to us that this group thought bringing drugs into our district in this type of machinery would avoid police interest. How wrong they were.

Chief Police Officer Johnson alongside ABF Acting Deputy Commissioner Operations Sharon Huey. Photo: George Tsotsos.

“With this particular method, it is the first time that we are aware of. It is possible that the syndicate have imported drugs before. We have had an interest in the syndicate for some time.”

CPO Johnson said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of further arrests, both relating to this particular criminal activity and potential other criminal activity the syndicate carries out.

It was the largest drug seizure coordinated by ACT Policing, with the assistance of New South Wales Police, Australian Federal Police’s National Anti-Gangs Squad and Australian Border Force, and even South African police.

“This joint operation showed the ACT shouldn’t be seen as an easy target for criminal gangs to bring in drugs” – CPO Johnson.

Australian Border Force Acting Deputy Commissioner Operations Sharon Huey said police are focused on working their way up the supply chain to find who is responsible.

“It was highly specialised and incredibly sophisticated concealment,” she said. “To put this into perspective, in the 2017-18 financial year, approximately 795 kilograms were detected at the border. This concealment represents almost half of the previous year’s total detection of cocaine.

“Our message is that we do have the skills and the technology and the commitment to prevent this type of importation, no matter how it comes in. We will bring down those responsible.”

Police are urging anyone who may have any information about the activities of this group to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website.

Please quote reference 6391209. Information can be provided anonymously.

Original Article published by Lachlan Roberts on The RiotACT.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Job well done by Police and Customs. However the underlying problem is the need for the drugs in Australia, there must be a market for this stuff. The elite in our Society I suspect.

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.