Australia nets biggest cocaine bust on record

Police officers seize cocaine from an inflatable boat at Brooklyn on the Central Coast on the outskirts of Sydney. (New South Wales Police, AFP)
Police officers seize cocaine from an inflatable boat at Brooklyn on the Central Coast on the outskirts of Sydney. (New South Wales Police, AFP)

Sydney - A major cocaine ring has been dismantled in joint operations with Tahiti, Australian police said on Thursday, with a record 1.1 tons of cocaine worth hundreds of millions of dollars seized.

Police listed 600kg of cocaine intercepted by the French navy off Tahiti, 500kg kilogrammes seized on Christmas Day in Sydney and 32kg of heroin in Fiji - all destined for the Australian market.

"The size of that seizure collectively - 1.1t - makes it the largest cocaine seizure in Australian law enforcement history," said Australian Federal Police acting Assistant Commissioner Chris Sheehan.

The street value of the cocaine, shipped from South America to the South Pacific, was estimated at Aus$360 million.

"The criminal syndicate that we have dismantled over the past few days was a robust, resilient and determined syndicate," he said.

"It's a significant hit... the entire group has been taken out," added NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins.

"It's quite a chunk out of the cocaine economy... over one ton of drugs has been prevented from reaching the streets ... and harming the community."

The investigation began more than two years ago following a tip from a member of the public.

"We have ongoing inquiries, particularly in South America and other parts of the world, to look at who they were dealing with to bring those drugs from those countries to Australia," Jenkins said.

The arrested, 14 Australians and one New Zealander aged between 29 and 63 years, were charged with serious drug importation offences and all were refused bail.

Police released video footage showing several men being arrested aboard a fishing boat and led away in handcuffs.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph said several were fishermen, one a former rugby league star, another a Bondi businessman.

With high street prices attracting drug sellers to Australia, police said they made more than 18 000 imported drug seizures in the last year.

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