Drugs seized as part of JOCTF investigation

Three Melbourne men have been arrested with around 100kg of a methamphetamine analogue seized, after a multi-agency law enforcement operation in Melbourne last night.

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The Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) operation follows the discovery of several barrels of liquid methamphetamine.

Investigators located 100kgs of the illicit drug and significant precursor chemicals at a large-scale clandestine drug laboratory under construction.

Police claim that this would have become one of the largest illicit clandestine labs in Victoria’s history.

A 41-year-old Niddrie man and a 48-year-old Darraweit Guim man were arrested last night at a residential property near Melbourne Airport, containing the clan lab inside a shed; while a 47-year-old Hadfield man was arrested at his home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in the estimated street value of illicit drugs, with the liquid methamphetamine seized overnight believed to be worth around $52.5 million dollars.

The men have all been charged with attempting to possess commercial quantities of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.5 (1), by virtue of section 11.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

The men are expected to face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today via video-link.

AFP Southern Command Acting Commander Investigations Ray Imbriano said the AFP and its law enforcement partners continue to work together to crackdown on organised crime despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Organised criminals such as those arrested today continue to attempt to prey on our community and push harmful illicit drugs onto our streets, but we remain one step ahead,” he said.

“This operation shows that police are keeping a watch on every corner and will continue to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in criminal activity.”

Commander Mick Frewen of the Victoria Police Crime Command said a clandestine laboratory of this size had the potential to inflict enormous harm on the Victorian community.

“We know that the trafficking and use of drugs is an enormous driver of serious and organised crime across the state, and this certainly hasn’t stopped even during the lockdown periods,” he said.

“Victoria Police will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to deter and disrupt this offending, as well as targeting the associated unexplained wealth, and today’s result should send a strong message that we absolutely will not tolerate this criminal activity.”

ABF Acting Commander Investigations Nicholas Walker said the successful arrests highlighted the excellent collaboration between all agencies working in the JOCTF.

“The ABF is actively focused on protecting our borders and our joint-agency work to detect, deter and disrupt criminals is critical to ensuring our community is free from the harmful scourge of illegal drugs,” Commander Walker said.

“People who think they can use the COVID 19 pandemic to cover their illegal activities should be aware law enforcement agencies have not stopped the important work that we do.”

The Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) comprises of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Victoria Police on secondment to AFP, Australian Border Force (ABF) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).