Police grab $6 million in cocaine

Cop’s message after $6.3m cocaine bust

A SENIOR drugs squad detective says a series of high-profile busts has done nothing to stem the demand for cocaine, and has laid down a challenge for users of the glamour drug.

Police announced this morning they had disrupted an alleged smuggling ring in October involving 21kg of cocaine worth $6.3m, hidden in a load of Spanish tiles.

As a result of enquiries into that haul, police, in a joint operation with Australian Border Force officers, raided a wrecking yard in Dapto on Friday where they allegedly uncovered 66g of cocaine, $125,000 in cash, and a rifle, ammo, and drug paraphernalia in other searches on the NSW south coast.

NSW drug squad commander Detective Superintendent Tony Cooke said despite large seizures of cocaine, both at the border and Australian-bound drugs in foreign countries, demand remains high.

"Over the past 12 months, NSW Police Force - with the assistance of our law enforcement partners - have seized tonnes of cocaine destined for the streets of NSW, but organised criminal groups continue to be motivated by an unwavering demand," Det Supt Cooke said.

Cocaine found in a tile.
Cocaine found in a tile.

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Ahmad Elhage has been charged with importing cocaine.
Ahmad Elhage has been charged with importing cocaine.

Wastewater analysis in 2016 showed NSW has almost double the consumption of cocaine when compared with the next biggest state when measured in doses consumed per day.

Det Supt Cooke said that was the most important issue that police were grappling with.

"Organised crime is about money, and while ever there is a demand for drugs, there will be criminal networks willing to exploit that demand for profit."

He said organised crime would continue to be targeted, but warned there would be no real success without a change in attitude by drug users.

"We will continue to work with our partners - including Australian Border Force - to target organised criminal activity, but we need the community's support to incite real cultural change in relation to drug use.

"By working together to reduce the demand, we can hit these illegitimate businesses where it hurts the most - on their bottom line."

The cocaine had a street value of over $6m.
The cocaine had a street value of over $6m.

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A gun allegedly found in the raids.
A gun allegedly found in the raids.

Ahmad El Hage, 35, and Zachary Chie, 31, were charged with importing a commercial quantity of drugs and appeared in a Wollongong court on Saturday. They were refused bail and would reappear in court on Wednesday.

ABF Superintendent Investigations, Garry Low, said that this seizure, which has resulted in two arrests, was a win for the Australian community and has prevented more than $6 million of cocaine from the streets.

"Every investigation the ABF conducts, in conjunction with our NSW Police partners, stops harmful and addictive substances from reaching vulnerable Australians," Superintendent Low said.

In September, detectives from the NSW Police Force's Drug Squad and investigators from the Australian Border Force (ABF) established Strike Force Brundson as a joint investigation into the importation and supply of cocaine.

One of the men arrested on Friday.
One of the men arrested on Friday.

The investigation began with a seizure of 111 pellets containing cocaine weighing 1.1kg allegedly secreted inside a man arrested at Sydney Airport last year.

He was charged and the matter is before the courts.

Last week, drugs were seized after a series of dawn raids in Dee Why, Five Dock, Lidcombe, Milperra, Padstow and Panania.

Police arrested three men, charging them with a variety of offences ranging from drug possession to participating in a criminal group.

The trio would appear in court again later this month.

The latest arrests follow a number of desperate measures introduced by police to crackdown on the roaring cocaine trade, particuarly in Sydney.

The Daily Telegraph revealed in September police would specifically target the city's eastern suburbs with a plan to include cocaine in roadside drug tests.

Police arrested two men and seize illegal drugs, large sums of cash and a firearm at a NSW south coast wrecking yard.
Police arrested two men and seize illegal drugs, large sums of cash and a firearm at a NSW south coast wrecking yard.

A loophole had allowed cocaine-abusing motorists to avoid detection, NSW Police Minister Troy Grant planned to include it by changing the Road Transport Act.

Mr Grant said experts from forensics had been asked to test cocaine on the DrugWipe devices used by police. They will also run tests to see if over-the-counter drugs such as throat lozenges could trigger false positive results.

"When roadside testing of oral fluids was introduced in 2006, suitable equipment for detecting cocaine was not available," Mr Grant said.

"Technology has advanced considerably since that time and the testing of oral fluid for cocaine is now feasible," Mr Grant said.

A trial could be in place within weeks.

The move followed news police were being forced to deploy extra resources to the eastern suburbs to combat out-of-control partygoers high on cocaine.

andrew.koubaridis@news.com.au



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