More than half a tonne of illicit drugs sent by mail to Queensland has been intercepted under an AFP and Australia Post operation.
Over the past nine months, nearly 160 packages were detected and referred to the joint operation set up to target criminal syndicates shipping contraband into the state.
The packages contained more than 547kg of illicit drugs and precursors. Investigations have led to the arrest of four people allegedly responsible and the disruption of numerous attempted imports.
The seizures referred to the AFP for investigation include a total of 203kg of methamphetamine, more than 180kg of cocaine, 48kg of heroin, 26.3kg of GBL, 4kg of opium and more than 5.5kg of ketamine, which were addressed to Queensland homes and businesses.
The joint effort to detect and disrupt criminals using the international postal system started in May last year (2022) when an Australia Post Group security liaison officer was embedded with AFP investigators in Brisbane.
Intelligence from this operation confirmed more than 140kg of the methamphetamine and 75kg of the cocaine had been destined for locations across Brisbane. An extra 100kg worth of cocaine and 50kg of both methamphetamine and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) was destined for the Gold Coast.
One of the seizures of illicit packages addressed to Far North Queensland was a parcel containing 45kg of heroin. Further inquiries revealed that a suspected criminal syndicate involved in the heroin importation plot used a fake address in an attempt to evade law enforcement detection.
Illicit drugs were found hidden in a range of items, including candles, clothing, books and electronic equipment.
AFP Detective Superintendent Helen Schneider said having an embedded Australia Post member allowed investigators to respond much more quickly when illicit substances in the postal stream were discovered.
“The ability for our investigators to access real-time intelligence from Australia Post has enabled the AFP to trace criminal networks and disrupt them swiftly,” she said.
“Drug trafficking impacts on our national security because criminals try to corrupt officials, or those who work in key logistic or infrastructure sectors.”
“It also impacts on the Australian economy because drug traffickers launder money through our financial systems and often increase their wealth by investing their illicit money, allowing them to bankroll more serious crime.”
“Illicit drugs cause tremendous harm to the Australian community and anyone caught importing, possessing or trafficking commercial quantities of these drugs could face life imprisonment if convicted.
“This operation has given us valuable intelligence about these groups, including that criminal syndicates often nominate an incorrect address, such as vacant lots or short-term rentals as destinations for shipments.”
The AFP is aware that organised crime groups (OCGs) use the mail and parcel post system to import illicit drugs in combination with their other import streams.
AFP is successfully identifying individuals who are receiving imports on behalf of OCGs. This enables police to identify and investigate the transnational OCGs that are organising and ultimately receiving these drugs.
The AFP is actively targeting mail and air cargo streams in close collaboration with partner agencies.
Australia Post assistance increases investigative opportunities for law enforcement agencies and aims to strengthen the exploitation of supply chain.
“While most air mail or air cargo imports might seem like relatively small amounts of illicit substances – anywhere from five grams to several kilograms – combined, they equate to millions of individual street deals that cause significant harm to the community,” she said.
“The disruption to the supply chain is a key part of our strategy to protect the Australian community from the harm illicit drugs can cause.
“Anyone who witnesses suspicious behaviour such as deliveries to vacant lots or short-term rentals should contact police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”
Australia Post General Manger Group Security Kevin Zuccato said the organisation took the security and integrity of the supply chain seriously.
“We are committed to working collaboratively with law enforcement, as evidenced by our recently deployed Australia Post Liaison Officer embedded with the AFP in Queensland,” he said.
Details of those charged during this operation:
A Brisbane man, 28, was charged after he was allegedly identified as the intended recipient of two illicit consignments sent from the United Kingdom in October 2022.
The packages, described as containing clothing, also held a combined total of seven kilograms of cocaine secreted in the lining of the cardboard boxes.
When police searched his Runcorn home in December 2022, they seized 500 grams of cocaine as well as MDMA, SIM cards and false driver licences.
The man was charged with:
- Importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) and;
- Possessing a substance, the substance having been unlawfully imported border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.6(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
He is next due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 21 April, 2023.
If convicted the man faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
A Cairns man, 30, was charged after he was allegedly linked to an illicit package of one kilogram of Ketamine, hidden within bath towels in June 2022.
He was arrested and charged with attempted possession of a marketable quantity of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.6(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
He is next due to appear in Cairns Magistrates Court on 21 March, 2023.
A German National, 61, was arrested at Brisbane International Airport after allegedly importing over two kilograms of cocaine hidden inside coffee bags and a children’s book in November 2022.
He was charged with importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
He is next due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 17 March, 2023.
A Logan man, 36, was charged for his alleged role in importing cocaine into Australia in November 2022 after analysis of messages on an encrypted chat platform.
Officers charged the man with:
- two counts of importing a marketable quantity of border controlled drugs, contrary to section 307.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) and;
- two counts of trafficking in a controlled drug, contrary to section 302.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
He is next due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 17 March, 2023
Breakdown of seizures referred for investigation:
- 45 individual packages containing methamphetamine with a total weight of about 203kg;
- 47 individual packages containing cocaine with a total weight of about 180.5kg;
- Three individual packages containing heroin with a total weight of about 48kg;
- Three packages containing Gamma-aminobutyric acid with a total weight of about 68kg;
- Two individual packages containing pseudoephedrine with total weight of about 12kg;
- Eight individual packages containing ketamine with a total weight of about 5.6kg;
- One package containing opium weighing about 4kg;
- Seven individual packages containing GBL with a total quantity of about 26.3kg; and
- A number of individual packages containing a diverse range of other border controlled drugs.
Investigations are ongoing into these seizures and further charges are likely.
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.