Australian police smash Asian drug ring

Agence France-Presse
Australian police say they had smashed a crime syndicate operating across Asia, leading to 27 arrests and the seizure of drugs and assets worth millions of dollars

SYDNEY, Australia – Australian police said Friday, March 22, they had smashed a crime syndicate operating across Asia, leading to 27 arrests and the seizure of drugs and assets worth millions of dollars.

Authorities said the organized gang – operating in China, including in Hong Kong and Macau, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar – allegedly targeted Australia for its heroin and methamphetamine trade.

“We know that ice (methamphetamine) availability has been increasing on our streets,” Victoria state police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said.

DRUG TRADE. Methamphetamine, known as 'shabu' in the Philippines, is one of the illegal drugs recently seized in Australia. Photo from PDEA

“The dismantling of this organized crime syndicate, we expect, will dramatically effect that availability.”

Australian Federal Police said they had seized some 42 kilograms (92 pounds) of drugs along with Aus$4 million (US$4.2 million) in cash, in an operation launched in April 2012 to probe the alleged syndicate.

Also included in the haul were residential properties worth Aus$5 million, Aus$600,000 in casino chips, jewelry worth Aus$10,000, 99 designer handbags and wallets, and a Lamborghini.

Police said Operation Volante was targeted at a longstanding crime gang they accuse of importing and trafficking substantial quantities of heroin and methamphetamine into and around Australia.

They allege the group was living off the wealth obtained from crime in Australia.

Justice Minister Jason Clare said the syndicate was run out of Sydney and Melbourne but had ties to five other Asian countries.

“Money creates power in the criminal underworld. Most organized criminals are more afraid of losing their money than they are of going to jail. That is why seizures like this are so important,” he said.

Police in Victoria conducted search warrants at 37 sites across Melbourne this week, including homes, warehouses, car shops, accountant offices, and security boxes, subsequently arresting 5 men and one woman.

Five are Vietnamese-born Australian citizens and the 6th is a Malaysian permanent Australian resident, police said.

Another 21 people arrested during the course of the probe have already appeared in courts in New South Wales and Victoria.

Australian Federal Police Commander David Sharpe said investigators had been “following the money trails, removing the wealth and cutting off distribution networks in Australia and internationally.”

“This investigation is not over,” he added.

“It continues across Australia and internationally and further arrests will be made.” –

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