216kg of drugs concealed in cartons of raisins

A joint operation between the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has disrupted an organised crime syndicate, preventing 216 kilograms of illicit drugs worth an estimated $30 million from reaching Sydney’s streets.

A 34-year-old Peakhurst man has been charged with importing a commercial quantity of drugs, comprising approximately 97.7 kilograms of heroin and 118.4 kilograms of pseudoephedrine. He will face Sydney Local Court today, the charges carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or a $825,000 fine.

The operation commenced on 7 November 2011, when Customs and Border Protection officers targeted a consignment for examination at its Container Examination Facility at Port Botany. The consignment, from Iran is believed to have originated from Afghanistan and contained 3,105 cartons declared as ‘red raisins’.

An x-ray examination of the cartons identified inconsistencies in some of the cartons. Upon further examination, a powdered substance was discovered concealed within the linings of the cartons. Further testing identified the presence of heroin and pseudoephedrine.

As a result of a joint investigation, the AFP today executed five search warrants in Peakhurst, Greenacre, Georges Hall and Bass Hill, arresting the man at his Peakhurst residence.

National Manager Sea Cargo & International Mail Graham Krisohos said this detection shows that Customs and Border Protection has the technology and examination capability to intercept even the most sophisticated of concealments.

“The successful targeting and examination by Customs and Border Protection and subsequent investigation and arrest by the AFP, demonstrates the importance of border agencies working closely together to achieve what has been a very satisfying result,” Mr Krisohos said.

The AFP and Customs and Border Protection have collaborated on several significant drug operations along the Australian east coast in recent months.

Since September the agencies have combined to seize 300 kiograms of cocaine from a yacht in Bundaberg, Queensland and 271 kilograms of cocaine from a consignment of lawn mowers in Melbourne.

“Each of these significant seizures has an immediate impact on the supply of drugs to Sydney and other Australian communities along the east coast,” said AFP Manager Serious and Organised Crime David Sharpe.

“But the consistency of these seizures should also send a clear and lasting message to organised crime that the AFP and our law enforcement partners won’t rest in fight against illegal drug importation.”