$14 million worth of heroin found in model truck

Thirty-five kilograms of heroin has an estimated wholesale value of about $10 million and a street value of more than $14 million.

The AFP has charged a man from Laos with attempting to import more than 35kg of heroin concealed in a model truck.

The man, 21, appeared in Downing Centre Local Court on 31 March 2023 and was refused bail to next appear in Sydney Downing Centre on 24 May 2023.

Thirty-five kilograms of heroin has an estimated wholesale value of about $10 million and a street value of more than $14 million. This amount of heroin is equal to 175,000 street deals in NSW.

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Image: model truck with drugs inside (Source: AFP)

The joint investigation with the Australian Border Force (ABF), codenamed Operation Tonka, began on 23 March 2023 after ABF officers detected heroin hidden inside a metal compartment within a red and blue model truck. The truck itself weighed more than 100kg.

The sea cargo consignment containing the model truck arrived in Port Botany from Thailand on 16 March 2023.

AFP Forensics Crime Scenes officers removed the heroin from the model truck and reconstructed it to avoid suspicion from alleged members of the organised crime syndicate behind this importation.

Members of the AFP High Volume Crime Team delivered the consignment to an apartment building in Haymarket on 30 March 2023.

The man was arrested after he accepted delivery of the consignment.

The AFP executed an additional a search warrant at a different address linked to the man who was arrested that same day in Haymarket, where a number of items were seized for further examination.

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AFP Sergeant Alex Drummond said it is rare that one person could import a commercial quantity of heroin into Australia on their own.

“There is typically an organised crime syndicate behind such importations because of the complexities in sourcing the heroin, the costs in sending it to Australia and the connections needed to sell it once onshore,” Sgt. Drummond said.   

“The AFP is working closely with its international law enforcement partners in Thailand and Laos to trace the origins of the heroin and identify other members of the syndicate behind this importation.” 

ABF Superintendent Jared Leighton praised ABF officers for detecting the drugs in the unique concealment.

“Our officers are highly trained and experienced, so even bold and audacious attempts to conceal drugs – just like this one was – won’t be enough to get through our detection methods,” Superintendent Leighton said.

“Regardless of how these criminal syndicates try to conceal or hide these illicit drugs, the ABF will find them while those doing the wrong thing will find themselves facing the consequences of their actions.

“We always work together closely with our law enforcement partners, and this arrest sends a very strong message to those seeking to profit by harming the Australian community.”

The man was charged with one count of importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely heroin, contrary to section 307.1, by virtue of section 11.1, of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

If this amount of heroin had reached the Australian community, the estimated total social cost would have been more than $45 million – through crime, increased healthcare and justice costs, and loss of productivity.

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