February 26. 2024. 5:29

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International drug bust nets €635m of cocaine bound for Australia

A joint US and Australian law enforcement operation has busted an international drug ring after intercepting 2.4 tonnes of cocaine aboard a vessel off the coast of South America that had been bound for Australia.

The cocaine, linked to a Mexican drug cartel, had a street value of around Au$1 billion (€636.5 million), and was equivalent to half of Australia’s estimated annual consumption, making the seizure one of the biggest that police in the country have been involved in.

Twelve suspects have been arrested and charged in the case, Western Australian state police said in a statement on Saturday, releasing details for the first time of an operation that began last November when the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intercepted the vessel.

Western Australian police substituted the cargo with identically packed fake cocaine and dropped it roughly 40 nautical miles west of state capital Perth on December 28th.

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Three suspected members of the “Australian arm of a drug syndicate” were arrested on December 30th with 1.2 tonnes of fake cocaine after allegedly making three trips out through rough seas to collect the packages.

A further nine arrests were made up to January 13th, including a traffic stop on the Great Eastern Highway, roughly 600km east of state capital Perth, where officers found more than Au$2 million in cash.

Hailing the success of ‘Operation Beech’, Western Australia police commissioner Col Blanch said: “The operation sends a message to international drug traffickers – your deadly drugs are not welcome here.”

A 39-year-old male US citizen was among the 12 charged, police said. — Reuters

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023