Melbourne man charged for multiple drug imports

This is a joint media release with the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police and the Australian Border Force.

A 42-year-old man has been arrested and charged for attempting to import a variety of drugs through air cargo into Melbourne.

He yesterday (15 June 2022) appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and was remanded in custody in relation to multiple charges including attempting to import and possessing 1kg of ketamine, 4kg of methamphetamine and 4kg of cocaine on three separate occasions.

The man was arrested as part of a joint investigation by AFP, Victoria Police and Australian Border Force (ABF)– codenamed Operation Rhyolite – which began in June 2021 after authorities identified multiple importations of liquid cocaine concealed in marker pens and mini smoker machines imported via air cargo into Melbourne

The investigation focused on an alleged Melbourne-based criminal syndicate using air cargo to import illicit drugs in quantities of up to 15kg per import from the United States of America (USA) and Europe using a variety of concealment methods. The operation has resulted in a total of 35kgs of cocaine being seized to date.

The 43-year-old is the sixth person arrested in relation to this alleged syndicate. In December 2021, a 39-year-old man, a 42-year-old man and a 39-year-old woman were arrested and charged with multiple import offenses.

Also in December 2021, Victoria Police arrested a 26-year-old man and a 24-year-old-man who were also charged with multiple drug manufacture and possession offences.

Officers from the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) executed a search warrant at the 43-year-old man’s home on 14 June 2022, where they seized electronic items.

AFP Detective Inspector Mark McKiernan said the AFP will continue to target those attempting to evade the law and import illicit drugs.

“We remain committed to keeping our communities safe by targeting the dangerous criminals who try to bring these destructive drugs to our streets,” D/Inspector McKiernan said.

“To those believing they can get away with this without any consequences, think again. If you attempt to import illicit drugs into Australia, you will be caught and face significant time in prison.”

Victoria Police Joint Organised Crime Taskforce Detective Inspector, Dan Ryan, said the operation highlights the success of joint investigations in preventing harm to the Victorian community.

“As this investigation shows, we are often dealing with organized crime syndicates that have immense reach both nationally and internationally,” he said.

“We want to make it as difficult as possible for these syndicates to bring harm to Victoria and create an environment where they should expect to be targeted and held to account.

“Victoria Police will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who bring that harm to our state are held to account, and that these criminal syndicates involved in the trafficking of illicit drugs are strongly and deliberately targeted.”

ABF Superintendent Uriah Turner, Regional Investigations, said the ABF will continue to target organised crime syndicates importing illicit drugs into Australia.

“During this operation the Australian Border Force worked closely with its law enforcement partners to target a syndicate bringing illicit drugs into the country,” Supt Turner said.

“Throughout the investigation ABF officers made a number of detections linked to the syndicate.

“No matter how criminals attempt to conceal and move their drugs, ABF officers have the skills, technology and resources to find the substances and track down the people who are attempting to bring them in.”

The man has been charged with:

  • Three counts of attempting to import a marketable quantity of border controlled drugs, namely ketamine, methamphetamine and cocaine, contrary to s.307.1(1) Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)
  • Three counts of attempting to possess a marketable quantity of border controlled drugs, namely ketamine, methamphetamine and cocaine, contrary to s.307.6(1) Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)

He is scheduled to re-appear before Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 6 September 2022. The maximum penalty for these offences is 25 years’ imprisonment.

Note to media:

Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.

  • For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
  • Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counseling online at www.counsellingonline.org.au.
  • For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to www.turningpoint.org.au.

Media enquiries:

AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297

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