A Victorian man who disappeared five years ago while on trial over a plot to import 186kg of cocaine has been arrested by the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) at Melbourne Airport.
The man, 46 years old, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court today (4 September, 2023) after he was taken into custody late Saturday afternoon (2 September, 2023) when he arrived in Melbourne on a flight from Doha.
Police will allege the accused fled Australia in 2018 using someone else’s passport. He allegedly spent time in Turkey, Greece and most recently was living in Bulgaria.
The man, who voluntarily returned to Australia, had allegedly been on the run for five years, after disappearing in May 2018 while on bail ahead of facing court over drug import offences. A warrant for his arrest was subsequently issued.
He had been charged as a result of Operation Barada, a major joint investigation into criminal syndicates allegedly attempting to import cocaine into Australia.
In January 2017, Operation Barada, with assistance from Maritime Border Command, led to the seizure of 186kg of cocaine and the arrest of 16 men.
Police alleged the 186kg of cocaine was brought to Australia on a commercial vessel and was expected to be collected at sea by a Melbourne-based syndicate for distribution across Australia.
The Victorian man was charged over his alleged role in the plot.
The man was charged on Saturday (2 September, 2023) and faced court today on the following offences:
- Attempting to import a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth);
- Make false or misleading statements in relation to an Australian travel document application, contrary to section 29(1) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (Cth);
- Give false or misleading information in relation to an Australian travel document application, contrary to section 30 (1) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (Cth);
- Produce false or misleading documents in relation to an Australian travel document application, contrary to section 31 (1) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (Cth);
- Dishonestly obtain an Australian travel document, contrary to section 35 (1) of the Australian Passports Act 2005 (Cth);
- Failure to appear in court, contrary to section 30(1) of the Bail Act 1977 (Vic);and
- Possess a tablet press, contrary to section 71C of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981(Vic).
The maximum penalty for attempting to import a border controlled drug is life imprisonment.
AFP Detective Superintendent Jason McArthur said police were dedicated to bringing to justice anyone allegedly involved in the trafficking of illicit drugs because of the harm they caused in Australian communities, even if the crimes happened years earlier.
“Illicit drugs make our communities less safe – criminals’ territorial drug disputes put innocent people at risk, drug-affected drivers are a menace on the roads and the money spent on illicit drugs diverts millions of dollars from the legitimate economy,” Detective Superintendent McArthur said.
“The seizure of the 186kg of cocaine in 2017 prevented those millions of dollars of drug profit from flowing back into a transnational criminal syndicate to fund other illegal ventures. The AFP is also working closely with our law enforcement partners around the world to track down and bring to justice anyone involved in this harmful crime.”
Victoria Police Detective Superintendent Dave Cowan, Organised Crime Division said this was a warning to anyone who thought they could hide offshore in a perceived safe haven whilst making huge illicit profits at the expensive of the Australian community.
“We do not forget and we do not give up. Victoria Police will continue to work relentlessly with our partners to ensure anyone involved in this criminality is brought to justice no matter how much time has passed,” Detective Superintendent Cowan said.
The Victorian JOCTF comprises members from the AFP, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and Department of Home Affairs.
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 counselling online at www.counsellingonline.org.au.
- For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to www.turningpoint.org.au.
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