A Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (QJOCTF) operation in collaboration with Maritime Border Command (MBC) has yesterday resulted in the arrest of two men and the seizure of approximately 600 kilograms of cocaine.
MBC is a multi-agency taskforce within the Australian Border Force (ABF) tasked to conduct civil maritime security operations in Australian waters.
Law enforcement agencies will allege that the men were first observed heading towards the mainland in a small craft by ABF and Australian Defence Force (ADF) aerial surveillance assets assigned to MBC to patrol the ocean off the coast of northern New South Wales. MBC tasked Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) Cape Fourcroy to respond. As they were approached by ADV Cape Fourcroy, the men attempted to evade interception, jettisoning items into the sea.
The ADV Cape Fourcroy crew retrieved the items from the sea, which were identified as containing more than 600 kilograms of cocaine and initiated a pursuit of the craft supported by ADF surveillance aircraft. The small craft was later intercepted as a result of MBC surveillance support approximately 40 nautical miles east of Byron Bay, by the specialist members of the Queensland Police Service.
A 36-year-old man and a 53-year-old man have been arrested by members of the QJOCTF and charged with possession of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
Commander Maritime Border Command, Rear Admiral Peter Laver, said the Australian Border Force is alert to the threat of criminal attempts to import illicit drugs using vessels targeting the Australian coast.
“Australia’s waters are vast, and we deploy a highly capable suite of ABF and Defence maritime surveillance and response assets at our disposal to detect and intercept illicit imports in collaboration with International, Federal and State Law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” Rear Admiral Laver said.
“Our significant on-water presence has once again seen a large-scale importation of drugs thwarted, keeping hundreds of kilos of cocaine off Australian streets.”
“Illicit drugs are a national problem and this operation highlights the importance and effectiveness of our law enforcement partners working collaboratively to identify and disrupt these attempted imports.”
Australian Federal Police Detective Superintendent Andrew Donoghoe said that today’s result is an indication of the reach and coordination modern law enforcement enjoys in disrupting large-scale drug trafficking such as this.
“Not only was the syndicate involved in this operation up against the Queensland Joint Organised Crime Taskforce, they were also facing resources from Maritime Border Command and our international partners.
“That we have stopped such a large amount of cocaine from hitting the streets of Australia is a testament to the combined efforts of all agencies involved,” said DS Donoghoe.
Australian Defence Force Acting Chief of Joint Operations Major General Greg Bilton said the ADF is committed to the Whole-of-Government effort to protect Australia’s borders from illegal activity.
“This drug seizure, and subsequent arrests, is a wonderful example of interagency cooperation resulting in a great outcome for Australia,” Major General Bilton said.
Detective Superintendent Jon Wacker from the Drug and Serious Crime Group, Queensland Police Service, said the operation highlighted the commitment of partner agencies to preventing the impact of drugs on the community.
“We will continue to focus on disruption to prevent community harm,” Detective Superintendent Wacker said.
Further warrants and enquiries are being executed and additional arrests may occur.
The charges laid carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The men were expected to appear in Southport Magistrates Court yesterday (1 August 2018).