1 tonne of cocaine seized in Sydney commercial fishing bust

Arrests in Sydney. Image: NSW Police

A crime syndicate, using a trawler out of the Sydney Fish Market, has been busted and 1.1 tonnes of cocaine worth hundreds of millions of dollars seized.

A joint strike force of Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police charged 15 men with drug importation offences after a two-and-a-half year operation.

About 500 kilograms of cocaine was found in Australia and another 600 kilograms, bound for Australia, in Tahiti.

The drug ring allegedly used a commercial fishing trawler to pick up drugs offshore from a ship sailing from South America.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a controlled drug is life imprisonment.

In July 2014, detectives from the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police Force State Crime Command’s Drug Squad formed Operation Okesi to investigate suspected drug trafficking by commercial fisherman in Sydney.

Since that time, detectives identified five alleged conspiracies to import illicit drugs into Australia, which included the seizure of 32kg of heroin by authorities in Fiji in December 2014.

Chris Sheehan, Australian Federal Police’s national Manager organised crime and cyber, says the investigation was a complex one which crossed domestic and international borders.

“We’ve stopped around a tonne of cocaine and a commercial quantity of heroin from reaching Australian shores,” says acting Assistant Commissioner Sheehan.

NSW Police Force state crime commander, assistant commissioner Mark Jenkins, says the joint operation began with a thread of information given to the NSW Drug Squad two-and-a-half years ago.

On Christmas night, three men were arrested at Parsley Bay in Brooklyn, NSW, and 500 kilograms of cocaine seized.

Search warrants were then executed across Sydney, resulting in the arrest of another four men.

Since then four men have been arrested in the Sydney suburbs of Zetland, Double Bay, Kingsford and Greenacre.

All 11 appeared in Sydney Central Court on Monday and Tuesday. Bail was refused.

On Tuesday, two men were arrested in Brisbane and Hobart. They appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court and Hobart Magistrates Court. Their extradition to NSW was granted.

Yesterday, two men were arrested in Ulladulla on the South Coast of NSW. Both appeared in Nowra Local Court. Bail was refused.

The seized drugs. Image: NSW Police

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