Australian police have intercepted A$1 billion worth of cocaine entering the west of the country in what is believed to be the country’s largest ever drug bust.
In a joint collaboration with the United States, dubbed “Operation Beech”, 2.4 tons of cocaine – with suspected links to a Mexican drug cartel – were seized by agents after traveling from the ‘South America.
THE drugs had a street value of around £562.9 million (A$1 billion) and was equivalent to half of Australia’s estimated annual consumption, according to police.
The operation, which has been going on since November 2022, led to the arrest of 12 individuals.
Fake cocaine used to lure suspects
Western Australian police seized a small vessel on December 28, with intelligence suggesting the suspected union members were unaware and still expected to receive the cargo.
In a clever plan to trap them, the police replaced the shipment with fake cocaine using identical packaging.
They dropped it 40 nautical miles west of the state capital, Perth, while monitoring it using drones and helicopters.
It is alleged that the syndicate members then used two boats – Catalina and Cool Runnings – to make several attempts to find and recover the cargo.
On December 30, tactical response officers arrested three men aboard Cool Runnings with approximately 1.2 tons of fake cocaine.
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Nine other arrests were made up to January 13, including on the Great Eastern Highway, around 600km east of Perth, where officers found more than £1.2million ($2million ) cash.
Police have charged a 39-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman with alleged ties to the union, according to ABC.
Deputy Commissioner Tony Longhorn said: ‘It’s a confidence booster…every time we do these operations, we’re testing the limits of our abilities.’
He added that the implementation of collaborative and innovative police intelligence strategies would be key to combating future drug-related activity.