Two airport workers are among five men who have been charged over an elaborate plot to import around 100kg of cocaine into Sydney Airport.
It’s understood the group had attempted to import the drugs in the cargo hold of a passenger plane from South Africa.
A 42-year-old Sydney man is alleged to have been the primary Australian facilitator of the endeavour, with officials alleging he “liaised with organised figures overseas to source the cocaine, have it placed on an aircraft and then arrange for its onward distribution in Australia”.
A 62-year-old man then allegedly coordinated the activities of two men working at the airport to facilitate the removal of the cocaine from the aircraft and deliver it to an associate.
According to Australian Federal Police, two men aged, 55 and 61, then allegedly used their employment and access to freight handling operations at Sydney’s international airport to facilitate the removal of five large bags containing the cocaine from a container in the cargo hold of an aircraft on 7 October.
“These two trusted insiders then allegedly transferred the five bags to a car driven by a 24-year-old Sydney man outside an airport freight terminal,” the AFP said.
“It will be alleged the Sydney man was acting on behalf of the first man to collect the cocaine ahead of onward distribution in Australia.”
All three men were arrested shortly after the handover on Saturday afternoon, with each of the bags found in the car allegedly containing about 20kgs of cocaine.
The other two men alleged to have been involved were arrested just hours later in Coogee and Rushcutter’s Bay.
All five have since been charged with a string of offences including importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and possessing a commercial quantity of cocaine, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
AFP Detective Superintendent Kristie Cressy said the AFP was committed to disrupting organised crime syndicates undermining Australia’s national security, economy and social security.
“Transnational serious organised crime groups actively try to corrupt people working at our airports because their access to airside operations is an active and efficient way to facilitate the importation of illicit drugs,” she said.
“The AFP and its partnersm including airport operators, airlines and service providers, treat matters such as this as a priority because of the damage this type of corruption can cause to our communities and businesses.
“People with trusted access in an airport precinct are critical to the successful operation of Australia’s tourism and trade sectors, but the AFP will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those who abuse this trust by assisting and profiting from organised crime.
“We will allege the organiser of this importation was well-organised and well-resourced, while the men working with trusted insiders had the potential to assist numerous criminal endeavours if they were allowed to continue unchecked.”
Authorities allege the cocaine haul could have been sold as 100,000 individual street deals, with an estimated street value of $40 million.