Saturday, April 20, 2024

Australia-wide police drug operation sees 2,000+ charges laid

Police across Australia have arrested 990 people, laying more than 2,000 charges and seizing 1.2 tonnes of drugs last week as part of a national week of action targeting illicit drug and organised crime activity.

Operation Vitreus is a joint initiative between all Australian state and territory police, Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

Focusing on detecting, disrupting and enforcing illicit drug and organised crime activity, this year’s week of action ran from 11 to 15 September, with 403 search warrants executed nation-wide.

Key national results include:

  • 990 drug related arrests
  • 2052 drug related charges
  • Approximately $475,000,000 worth of drugs seized (street value)
  • 814 kilograms of methylamphetamine seized
  • 182 kilograms of MDMA seized
  • 4020 plants/ 185 kilograms of cannabis seized

In Victoria alone, the operation – led by Major Drug Squad – saw 149 arrests, 361 drug related charges, 87 search warrants executed and the seizure of 19 firearms, 13 vehicles and approximately $475,000 cash.

Detectives from Major Drug Squad, the Icarus and VIPER Taskforces, Clandestine Laboratory Squad and local police also seized varying quantities of what appear to be methylamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, ketamine, MDMA, ecstasy, cannabis (both dried and plants) and 1,4-Butanediol over the course of the week, with a total combined value of over $5,760,000.

“Almost $500,000,000 worth of illicit drugs were seized in this country last week alone. Whilst an incredible result, it aptly highlights the seemingly insatiable demand there is in Australia for illicit substances,” said Detective Acting Superintendent Dan Ryan, Victoria Police Organised Crime Division.

“These seizures have prevented the associated community harm which is not restricted to the end users. Drug trafficking impacts us all – whether it be the associated crime in our local communities, or road trauma, family violence, homicides and shootings.

“Our message to those involved in the manufacture and trafficking of illicit drugs is clear: will continue to work closely with our law enforcement and intelligence partners to target you, and to dismantle your operations.”

State-based highlights:

Victoria: On Wednesday 13 September, detectives from Victoria Police’s Icarus and VIPER Taskforces charged a man and seized about 14 kilograms of drugs believed to be MDMA, four firearms, ammunition, a large amount of cash, pill presses and a range of drug packaging and equipment. Also seized from the Greenvale address were three luxury vehicles including a 2016 Holden HSV GTS, a 2016 Mercedes Benz AMG GT S and a 2010 Mercedes Benz AMG C63, with the three cars having a combined value of approximately $300,000. Police also seized twoRolex watches, which along with the vehicles are believed to be the proceeds of crime. A 27- year-old Greenvale man was charged with traffick large commercial quantity MDMA and firearms offences.

Western Australia: On Tuesday 12 September, the WA Police Force’s Drug and Firearm Squad seized 15 kilograms of Methylamphetamine buried in bushland in Stake Hill, south of Perth. A 30-year-old man with OMCG links was charged a number of serious drug offences. A further 12kilograms of Methylamphetamine was also located buried in bushland in Dianella, north of Perth. Investigations remain ongoing.

“This week of action is another example of law enforcement agencies working together in a coordinated effort to disrupt the supply and distribution of illicit drugs in the across the nation,” said Detective Superintendent John Hutchison from WA Police Serious and Organised Crime Division and Operation Vitreus National Chair.

“Across one week we were able to take more than 1.2 tonnes of illicit drugs including more than 800 kilograms of Methylamphetamine off the street and out of our local communities.”

“Our police and border forces and criminal intelligence agencies, have some of the most sophisticated technology and resources at our disposal and we will continue to target illicit drug and organised crime activity at every level.”

“The success of this week of action should serve as a reminder to anyone in Australia who is involved in illicit drug and organised crime activity. We will find you and we will bring you to justice.”

“I would like to thank all those involved in this week of action including state, territory and federal police, and our partner agencies including Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, who provided valuable intelligence and support.”

New South Wales: On Thursday 14 September, officers attached to the St George Police Area Command with assistance from Raptor Squad and the Dog Squad executed simultaneous search warrants in Georges Hall, Chester Hill, Smithfield, Bankstown, Greenacre and Earlwood as part of an ongoing investigation into a dial-a-dealer syndicate under Strike Force Vaxit. During the searches, police seized approximately 2 kilograms of cocaine, about $168,470 in cash, 20 litres of suspected GBL, a revolver firearm, eight vehicles, stolen registration plates and items consistent with the manufacture of drugs. Five people were subsequently arrested – four males aged 24, 19, 26 and 44 – as well as a 31-year-old woman. They were charged with a number of drug supply, firearm and criminal group related offences and all refused bail.

“The statistics – 1.2 tonnes of drugs seized – show just how successful this operation was, but it also gives a snapshot into how real the problem in Australia is,” said Detective Superintendent Peter Faux NSW Police, State Crime Command Organised Crime Squad and Operation Vitreus National Coordinator.

“While this week of action is over, we remain committed to working alongside our partner agencies in the fight against drugs – and our ability to pool intelligence and resources like this should make criminal groups very nervous.”

South Australia: On Wednesday 13 September, detectives from Serious and Organised Crime Branch arrested two men in connection with the trafficking of controlled drugs to Western Australia. A 58-year-old man from Seaford and 36-year-old man from Angle Park were charged with two counts of trafficking a large commercial quantity of Methylamphetamine. It is alleged that back in June and July 2022 the men were involved in the preparation of over 40 kilograms of Methylamphetamine in South Australia. The men then facilitated transportation of the drugs to Western Australia where they were later seized by local police. At the time of seizure, the drugs were estimated to valued at $7 million dollars if sold by the kilogram in South Australia, and $30 million dollars if sold at street level. Throughout the week local police arrested 39 people on 141 drug related offences, ranging from illicit drug manufacture and cultivation to the trafficking of large commercial quantities of controlled drugs. SAPOL and partner agencies seized an estimated $2 million dollars of illicit drugs from local communities in metropolitan and regional South Australia.

Tasmania: On Sunday 17 September, members from Rosebery, Zeehan and Queenstown uniform seized approximately 2 kilograms of cannabis from a property at Tullah. A 60-year-old woman will face court for possessing, cultivating and using a controlled plant. Investigations are ongoing. As part of the national week of action, Tasmania Police screened more than 200 vehicles, 800 passengers, and thousands of packages at the state’s main gateways including Launceston and Hobart airports, the Spirit of Tasmania, and local mail centres.

Queensland: On Tuesday 12 September, Queensland Police Service Drug and Serious Crime Group seized approximately $11.5 million of cannabis following a search warrant at a property at Gunalda, north of Gympie. The seizure is part of ongoing Operation Victor Alon targeting an alleged organised crime syndicate producing drugs in regional Queensland to distribute nationally.

Police located six green houses, measuring 80 metres in length and 10 metres wide, 2284 Cannabis plants and approximately 7 kilograms of dried cannabis were located, along with sophisticated hydroponic equipment, drug utensils and other production equipment. No persons were on the property at the time of the search warrant and investigations remain ongoing.

Throughout the week of action QPS have charged 442 people on 981 drug related offences, and removed a significant quantity of dangerous drugs from the hands of organised crime syndicates looking to exploit vulnerable members of the community.

Australian Federal Police: On Sunday 10 September, a Sydney man was arrested by AFP after taking delivery of 6.22 kilograms of Methylamphetamine located in “battery convertors” from Mexico. A further four consignments were located, allegedly connected to the same man, and in total approximately 30 kilograms of Methylamphetamine detected.

Australian Border Force: A significant quantity of illicit drugs was seized at Australia’s border during the week of action. This included seizures by ABF officers at international cargo, mail, seaports, and international airports across Australian states and territories. Illicit drugs seized at the border during the week included 776 kilograms of Methylamphetamine, 159 kilograms of MDMA, 35 kilograms of Heroin, 42 kilograms of Cocaine, 8 kilograms of Cannabis, 69 litres of precursor drugs (used to manufacture drugs such as Methylamphetamine) and 13 kilograms of Ketamine and Pseudoephedrine.

Anyone with information on illicit drug activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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