Three men have been charged as part of an investigation into an alleged international crime syndicate accused of conspiring to supply three tonnes of cocaine imported from South America - with an estimated street value of $900 million - throughout NSW.
Two of the men were arrested near a storage facility at Lake Macquarie on Thursday and will face Newcastle Local Court today.
In early 2020, detectives from the State Crime Command's Organised Crime Squad received information related to an individual gambling a significant amount of money at a casino.
Those inquiries led to the establishment of Strike Force Jillabenan, a joint investigation between NSW Police and the NSW Crime Commission, to investigate the large-scale supply of prohibited drugs - mainly cocaine - across NSW.
During the course of the investigation, detectives uncovered a significant transnational organised crime syndicate facilitating the importation of illicit drugs, operating across Australia and North and South America.
A collaborative international police operation began with assistance from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Acting on intelligence information from NSW Police investigators, the United States Navy (USN) seized 870kg of cocaine, after intercepting a vessel travelling in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Colombia in October last year.
Following further inquiries by NSW Police, the United States Coast Guard seized a further 900kg of cocaine, after intercepting a second vessel travelling off the coast of Ecuador in April this year.
Police will allege in court that both seizures formed part of a conspiracy to supply a total of 3000kg of cocaine - including the 1770kg seized - which has a total estimated potential street value of $900 million.
As part of ongoing inquiries, Strike Force Jillabenan investigators constructed a replica of the items seized in April, which was taken to a storage facility in the Lake Macquarie area.
Just after 8.30am yesterday, a 42-year-old man was arrested with assistance of the Tactical Operations Unit (TOU) and PolAir after allegedly attempting to access the items.
A second man - aged 37 - was arrested by the Tactical Operations Unit at a car park nearby.
Both men were subsequently taken to Toronto Police Station.
The 42-year-old Mortdale man was charged with two counts of conspiracy to supply prohibited drug (large commercial), large commercial drug supply and participate criminal group contribute criminal activity.
The 37-year-old Rockdale man was charged with large commercial drug supply.
The pair have been refused bail to appear at Newcastle Local Court today.
Shortly after the arrests, the Organised Crime Squad executed five search warrants at homes at Mortdale, Paddington, Regents Park, Rockdale and Sans Souci.
The operation was also assisted by officers from Lake Macquarie Police District, the Raptor Squad, Central and South West Metropolitan Operations Support Groups, and the Public Order and Riot Squad.
During the searches, investigators located and seized cash, electronic devices, documentation, and numerous mobile phones, including various encrypted devices.
A third man - aged 58 - was arrested at the Sans Souci property and taken to St George Police Station.
The man was charged with two counts of conspiracy to supply prohibited drug (large commercial), two counts large commercial drug supply and participate criminal group contribute criminal activity.
He was also refused bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court today.
Investigations by Strike Force Jillabenan detectives are continuing.
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