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06 June 2024, 12:48pm
Media Release

Queensland men jailed for attempting to possess nearly 50kg of cocaine

Editor’s note: Images from this arrest are available via Hightail

Two Queensland men with links to the Comanchero and Lone Wolf Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs have been jailed for attempting to possess nearly 50kg of cocaine secreted inside empty shipping containers.

A Mudgeeraba man, 29, and an Ashmore man, 30, were both found guilty on Friday (31 May, 2024) and sentenced in the Brisbane Supreme Court today (6 June, 2024) to a combined total 23 years’ imprisonment.

The drugs, which Belgian authorities had removed from the containers before they arrived in Australia, had an estimated street value of $19.4 million.

The AFP and Queensland Police Service (QPS) launched Operation Chopin in May 2019 to investigate the large-scale importation of cocaine into Australia. The investigation also involved the Australian Border Force.

On 12 June, 2020, the men used a ladder and tools to attempt to retrieve 48.5kg of cocaine which they believed was secreted inside a refrigerated shipping container that had arrived in Brisbane and been moved to a container storage yard.

The container was loaded onto a ship in Panama in early 2020 before passing through Ecuador on the way to Belgium. The men were unaware that in February 2020, Belgian authorities at the Port of Antwerp had found 42 small packages filled with white powder hidden inside the refrigerated container.

Belgian authorities conducted a field narcotics test of the white powder which returned a positive result for cocaine. The packages were seized before Belgian law enforcement released the container for further passage to Brisbane via the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

The container arrived at the Port of Brisbane in June 2020 and was stored at a shipping container storage yard. The men made multiple visits to various yards in search of the container. They also used encrypted mobile devices to communicate and traveled from the Gold Coast in a white van registered in Western Australia, replacing the number plates with cloned Queensland number plates when they were close to the Port of Brisbane.

On 17 June, 2021, investigators executed a search warrant at a rural property at Inverell, NSW, linked to the Ashmore man and found the white van inside an abandoned fossicking shack.

Both men were charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border-controlled drug (cocaine) contrary to subsection 307.5(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

The Mudgeeraba man, 29, was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of five years and six months.

The Ashmore man, 30, was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of six years and five months.

AFP Detective Superintendent Adrian Telfer said the transnational serious organised crime was a global problem and required worldwide cooperation.

“Through our strong international networks, the AFP works tirelessly with our international partners to disrupt organised crime syndicates targeting Australia,” Detective Superintendent Telfer said.

“Criminal syndicates involved in drug importations do not care about the harm they cause to Australian communities – from the violence between rival dealers that put innocent communities at risk, to the drug-driving crashes and the thousands of drug-related hospital admissions.

“What our workforce does is important. That’s why any chance I get, I like to thank the dedicated men and women – the sworn and unsworn members – of the AFP,’’ Detective Superintendent Telfer said.

QPS Detective Acting Superintendent Tim Leadbetter of the Organised Crime Gangs Group said the operation demonstrated commitment, expertise and professionalism by all investigators and specialist support resources to successfully target and disrupt these groups.

 “This is an outcome of the ongoing collaborative work to take action at every opportunity to dismantle and disrupt the illegal activity of anyone associated with OMCGs,” Detective Acting Superintendent Leadbetter said.

“This should serve as a warning to all criminal gangs, that the QPS is focused on disrupting their activities and eliminate the harm that they pose to the Queensland community. We will continue to work closely with our partner agencies to ensure we achieve this.”

Note to media

Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.

  • For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015
  • Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online
  • For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to the Turning Point website.
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