Australian police smash Asian drug syndicate


Sat, Mar 23, 2013 - Page 6

Australian police said yesterday they had smashed a crime syndicate operating across Asia, leading to 27 arrests and the seizure of drugs and assets worth millions of dollars.

Authorities said the organized gang — operating in China, including in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar — allegedly targeted Australia for its heroin and methamphetamine trade.

“We know that ice [methamphetamine] availability has been increasing on our streets,” Victoria state police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said. “The dismantling of this organized crime syndicate, we expect, will dramatically effect that availability.”

Australian Federal Police said they had seized about 42kg of drugs along with A$4 million (US$4.2 million) in cash, in an operation launched in April last year.

Also included in the haul were residential properties worth A$5 million, A$600,000 in casino chips, jewelry worth A$10,000, 99 designer handbags and wallets, and a Lamborghini sports car.

Police said Operation Volante was targeted at a longstanding crime gang they accuse of importing and trafficking substantial quantities of heroin and methamphetamine into and around Australia.

Australian Justice Minister Jason Clare said the syndicate was run out of Sydney and Melbourne, but had ties to at least five other Asian countries.

Police in Victoria conducted search warrants at 37 sites across Melbourne this week, including homes, warehouses, car shops, accountant offices and security boxes, subsequently arresting five men and one woman.

Five are Vietnamese-born Australian citizens and the sixth is a Malaysian permanent Australian resident, police said.