A CLANDESTINE laboratory was allegedly located at Georges Hall as investigations into a threat by bikies resulted in the largest seizure of ephedrine on record and the arrest of a drug supply syndicate during a multi-agency operation in NSW and ACT.
Detectives from the State Crime Command's Gangs Squad commenced an investigation in December 2016 following reports of an extortion involving members of the Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang (OMCG).
Their inquiries revealed a significant drug supply network, which included OMCG and other criminal groups planning large-scale importation of border controlled drugs.
As a result of further investigations, which also involved Australian Border Force (ABF) officers and detectives from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) led National Anti-Gangs Squad and ACT Policing Taskforce NEMESIS, a shipping container was intercepted at Port Botany last Saturday (24 June 2017).
The consignment was examined and 1.4 tonnes of ephedrine was located concealed in buckets labelled as sea salt.
This is the largest ephedrine seizure on record and the biggest seizure of precursor chemicals at the Australian border. It is estimated the amount of ephedrine could make up to 1.3 tonnes of ice, with an estimated potential street value of $650 million.
Following extensive investigations, police from NSWPF, assisted by AFP and ABF, commenced an operation across Sydney and in the ACT, about 7am today (Wednesday 28 June 2017).
Officers executed 28 simultaneous search warrants at properties at Kurrajong, Glenwood, Londonderry, Cabramatta, Canley Vale, Georges Hall, Merrylands, Minchinbury, Seven Hills, Fairfield, and Penrith, and Forde, ACT.
A clandestine laboratory was located at the Georges Hall address, which is being dismantled by the Drug Squad's Chemical Operation Team.
During the warrants, officers seized five handguns, 6kg of ice, 10kg of ephedrine, a portable clandestine laboratory, and more than $2 million cash.
Investigators arrested 12 men – aged between 23 and 44 – who were taken to local police stations, where they will be charged over their alleged roles in the network.
Details of charges and court appearances will be available later today.
NSW Police Force Commissioner Mick Fuller commended NSW Police Gang Squad investigators after a reported act of street violence led to the dismantling of a multi-million dollar drug supply network.
"This investigation is another example of the multifaceted nature of modern organised crime and the changing face of their structures, networks, and associations," Commissioner Fuller said.
"It highlights the strong relationships between law enforcement agencies both in Australia and across the world, working together to successfully disrupt criminal enterprises.
"This is a significant disruption to the supply of a heinous drug that destroys lives right across the state.
"NSW Police will continue to investigate, disrupt and respond to crime to make our streets safer."
Acting ABF Commissioner Michael Outram said the seizure meant that 13 million individual hits of ice would now be destroyed.
"The 1.4 tonnes of ephedrine was seized before it crossed our border, before it could be used to make 1.3 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine and before it could make its way into the community," Acting ABF Commissioner Michael Outram said.
"This has been a significant operation and I want to thank the hundreds of officers involved, not only from the ABF but from the NSW Police Force and the AFP. This operation is testament to what can be achieved when authorities join forces and work together to achieve a common goal."
Acting AFP Commissioner Neil Gaughan said the global criminal environment today is complex, borderless and fluid with criminal groups active at local, national and international levels, investigations are increasingly likely to have an international context.
"With advancements in technology and the increasingly borderless nature of crime, it is becoming more important than ever to work closely with our domestic and international partners to combat the common threats in our communities, in the smartest and most efficient ways," Acting AFP Commissioner Gaughan said.
"In the past six months alone, Australian law enforcement agencies have set new records for the seizures of cocaine, ice, and today, ephedrine. This is a credit to the work of all agencies involved to stop these harmful drugs from reaching out streets.
"Our message to these criminals is clear – we will continue to go as hard as we can to shut down their evil trades," Acting AFP Commissioner Gaughan said.
Police are urging anyone with information in relation drug supply to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/. Information about the illicit importation of substances can also be provided to Border Watch on 1800 061 800.
Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence.