BEFORE all the raids in NSW and Queensland and the dozen or so arrests, before the seizure of millions of dollars worth of cannabis and methylamphetamine and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash there was a Kia Carnival driving along the Pacific Highway at Heatherbrae.
On board the innocuous-looking people mover were six people, including two children, and, police allege, 71 kilograms of cannabis and one kilogram of methylamphetamine with a combined estimated street value of $716,000.
The police search at an otherwise empty service station about 11pm on December 20 last year was a major breakthrough for Organised Crime Squad detectives investigating a Sydney-based criminal syndicate allegedly involved in cannabis cultivation and money laundering.
And since then 10 more alleged syndicate members have been arrested in sweeping raids from Brisbane to Sydney's south west and police have seized millions in drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
A man, now 42, who was in the Kia Carnival, was arrested and taken to Raymond Terrace police station where he was charged with supplying a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug, which carries a maximum of life in jail and supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug. The man, from Forest Lake, south of Brisbane, is behind bars and will next appear in Raymond Terrace Local Court on April 27.
The State Crime Command's Organised Crime Squad and the NSW Crime Commission launched Strike Force Riche in July, 2019, to investigate a criminal syndicate, allegedly uncovering a network operating multiple hydroponic grow houses in residential areas across Sydney's south west.
After the vehicle stop at Heatherbrae, police searched a home in Blacktown in February and allegedly located an elaborate hydroponic setup and 152 cannabis plants.
Detectives passed on information to Queensland police and a man, 24, from Liverpool, was arrested at Brisbane domestic airport on February 19. Police allege he was found with more than $175,000.
Later that day, police searched a home in Chuwar, Queensland, and allegedly seized 45kg of cannabis, methylamphetamine and more than $114,000 cash. A man, 50, was arrested at the home. Then on Wednesday, police searched seven residential units and storage units across south-west Sydney, seizing a total of 456 cannabis plants, 22 kilograms of cannabis head and $330,000 cash.
Six men and two women, all Vietnamese Nationals, were arrested and police say the total estimated street value of the drugs is more than $3 million.