UK based crime group sentenced for crystal meth import to Australia

The investigation began after 24 kilograms of methamphetamine was seized in Australia by Australian Border Force officials, who handed the shipment over to the AFP.

Three people who sent crystal methamphetamine to Australia – where it could have been worth up to $8.2 million – have been jailed by Croydon Crown Court in the United Kingdom.

A woman, 54, from Croydon, and two men from Kent, 54 and 53, were convicted for their roles in a drug trafficking operation in January following an investigation by the Organised Crime Partnership (OCP) – a joint National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police Service unit.

The investigation began after 24 kilograms of methamphetamine was seized in Australia by Australian Border Force officials, who handed the shipment over to the AFP.

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Enquiries undertaken by the AFP established that the shipment had come from the UK.

OCP investigators discovered the drugs had been sent from Croydon on 25 June 2021, with CCTV images identifying a woman working in the cargo sector at the time. The images also captured a man, subsequently identified as the 54-year-old, sending a shipment labelled ‘two glass Buddhas’ to Australia.

The woman was responsible for the security inspection of the item. The package did not contain anything except the drugs, which were not concealed, which prosecutors alleged proved she had not checked the contents.

The 53-year-old man acted as a ‘middle man,’ putting the other two parties in touch with each other to facilitate the exportation of the drugs

OCP investigators also identified two other shipments were previously sent to Australia on 2 and 24 June, 2021.

The named senders on all three shipments were individuals who had their passports stolen. One of the stolen passports, along with a debit card used to pay for the shipping of two consignments, were found in a search of the 54-year-old man’s home.

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All three were convicted on 13 January, 2023, after a trial at Croydon Crown Court.

They were sentenced respectively to 12 years imprisonment, less discounts of one year, by the Croydon Crown Court.

Richard Smith, from the Organised Crime Partnership, said: “This organised crime group sought to make huge profits by trafficking dangerous drugs to Australia. They used Stewart’s inside knowledge of the cargo industry to try to ensure their shipments made it overseas.

“We worked closely with the Australian Federal Police to dismantle this criminal supply chain and protect the public in both countries from the impact of the illegal drugs trade.”

Detective Superintendent Callum Hughes, AFP Senior Officer London, noted the importance of international cooperation between the AFP and the Organised Crime Partnership (OCP) team in identifying and prosecuting a transnational organised crime group seeking to import illicit drugs into Australia from the United Kingdom.

“This outcome should serve as a warning to those who seek to undertake this type of criminal activity; the risk of lengthy imprisonment far outweighs the short-term benefits of your actions,” Det-Supt Hughes said.

“The AFP through its officers based in London has an excellent relationship with UK law enforcement agencies such as the NCA, and the chances of any group or individual being identified and prosecuted for this type of criminal behaviour has never been higher.”

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