A 42-year-old man is potentially facing life imprisonment over his alleged involvement in an elaborate plan to smuggle drugs into Australia on a commercial flight more than a decade ago.
The man, who has had an outstanding warrant against him since 2013, was arrested on March 4 after he arrived in Sydney as a passenger on a commercial flight from South East Asia, where police believe he had been living since 2012.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) allege the Australian national stored cocaine and methamphetamine in a safe house in Hong Kong, before working with a courier to transport the drugs to Australia in 2012.
It is alleged the man hid the drugs inside the main body of a plane bound for Sydney.
He has been charged with two drug importation offences that carry maximum penalties of life imprisonment and 25 years’ imprisonment, and is due to face court on March 15.
AFP said a second man, a “trusted insider” employed by a commercial airline at Sydney International Airport who has already been convicted, removed the concealed drugs and drove them out of the airside secure area to his own vehicle.
He was then was arrested in the airport car park.
A huge police operation involving the AFP, NSW Police, Australian Border Force and Hong Kong Customs and Excise was launched back in 2012 to investigate border-controlled drug imports by trusted insiders employed by a commercial airline at Sydney Airport.
It was called Operation Hayman and found the “trusted insider” at the airline was using his position to access illicit drugs, which were concealed by couriers within panelling on aircraft arriving from Hong Kong.
The “trusted insider” and two other men have already been convicted and sentenced for importing 1kg of cocaine and 5kg of methamphetamine on a flight from Hong Kong to Sydney in July 2012.
Investigators also seized $1.6 million in cash during the investigation.
AFP Detective Superintendent Morgen Blunden said the latest arrest was a sign that time was not on the side of alleged drug importers if they attempted to remain outside of the country to avoid prosecution.
“The AFP is on constant alert for anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant attempting to re-enter the country,” Supt Blunden said.
“They might think that we will forget about their alleged crimes if they stay away long enough, but they are wrong.”
Australian Border Force (ABF) Superintendent Elvir Tupkovic added that despite drug smugglers’ elaborate plans, Australian authorities were a “always a step ahead”.
“We know the lengths criminals will go to in their attempts to import harmful drugs into our country,” he said.
“Our highly trained and experienced ABF officers prove time and time again that they will find drug shipments wherever they are from or however they may be concealed.
“Our message is clear: We are always a step ahead.”
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