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Australian authorities smash Sydney Airport drug smuggling ring

Christian Fernsby |
An extensive drug smuggling ring operating out of Sydney Airport has been dismantled, Australian authorities said, resulting in the seizure of a combined 55 kg of suspected cocaine and 5.5 million U.S. dollars in cash.

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Three men including a baggage handler at the airport have been arrested following a months-long investigation by the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force (ABF), the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force, and the Department of Home Affairs.

"These men used their intimate knowledge of the aviation environment to conduct this smuggling operation, but still weren't able to avoid our detection," ABF acting regional commander NSW Garry Low said

"I'm proud of our investigators and intelligence team, who have all worked particularly hard in this joint operation to achieve this result and counter this major criminal activity."

The trio was allegedly using their access to aircraft to smuggle cocaine through the baggage holds of commercial flights arriving from South Africa.

In April, police arrested a 42-year-old man in the vicinity of Sydney Airport, with a search of his vehicle revealing a duffel bag containing 27 kg of what is suspected to be cocaine.

Another man, aged 50, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon and was found to be in possession of a bag containing 28 kg of what is believed to be cocaine.

A 47-year-old man was also arrested outside his home on Wednesday, for his alleged involvement in the operation.

Police executed a total of six search warrants on properties across Sydney's outer suburbs, one of which led to the discovery of 5.5 million U.S. dollars in cash.

The two men arrested on Wednesday were each charged with six counts of importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs and if convicted could face up to life in prison.

"The arrest of these men should act as a warning to anyone considering abusing a privileged position at an Australian airport: just because you hold that position it does not mean the ABF isn't alert to your activities," Low said.

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