Six people have now been charged by Federal Police over a failed plan to import a large quantity of drugs into Sydney via an international aircraft.
The investigation began in March 2019 when the AFP arrested two men and seized 38kg of methamphetamine which had been imported into Sydney via an Air Canada flight.
Following these arrests, the specialist Sydney Aviation Investigations team identified a man suspected of acting as an overseer of the importation within the airport precinct. Police allege the man used an encrypted device and a ‘burner’ phone to communicate with an extended criminal syndicate.
Syndicate planned another drug importation
In June this year, police executed search warrants in Liverpool, NSW, where they seized approximately $100,000 in cash and charged a man and a woman.
Intelligence gathering during the international sting operation known as Operation Ironside revealed this syndicate had begun planning another importation through Sydney Airport. Police will allege the syndicate consisted of people with trusted insider access at the airport, who used encrypted devices to communicate.
They will further allege in court that the six members of the criminal syndicate, who consisted of past and present employees of a service provider at the airport, planned to import an unknown amount of border-controlled drugs concealed within a cargo box in the hold of a commercial aircraft on in March 2020.
Reduced flights put paid to second import
The importation did not occur due to reduced flight schedules as a result of the pandemic, but the syndicate was heavily involved in its planning. This included distributing encrypted AMOM devices to each of the six members, as well as canvassing for suitable exchange locations within the secure airside area of Sydney Airport.
Following further investigation, officers charged the six syndicate members on Wednesday (13 October) with offences relating to the failed importation.
Detective Inspector Scott Sykes said Operation Ironside continued to deliver investigative leads for police, and the AFP was increasingly focusing on targeting trusted insiders working in Australia’s busiest airport.
“We ask all people that utilise the airport for work or pleasure to be vigilant; if you see or hear something that is unusual or suspicious, please report it to the AFP,” he said.