A joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Border Force (ABF), led to a major cocaine bust in South Australia with a shipment from Greece labelled as ‘welding’ found to contain 20 kg of the drug.
The estimated street value of the quantity seized amounts to $20 million and a 46-year-old man has been charged over the alleged import plan.
The arrest took place on Tuesday 8 September at the man’s suburban Adelaide home, where police found electronic devices and documentation allegedly linked to the consignment.
Suspicions had been raised over the air cargo consignment labelled as “welding” when South Australian ABF detected “anomalies” in the wooden crate of the shipment with two machines when X-rayed.
Officers found electronic safes hidden in each of the machines with 18 packages storing the substance which was later confirmed to be cocaine.
The joint agency investigation was launched on 31 August, with search warrants in two properties leading to the man’s arrest.
Police will allege that Tereapii Pokoina, 46, had made arrangements for the delivery of the shipment to his former workplace, without his former bosses being aware.
It is also alleged he had inquired the freight company about the consignment.
AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Gavin Stone spoke of the authorities’ determination to stop illicit drug smuggling into Australia with attempted operations continuing despite COVID-19 border restrictions.
“We will outsmart you. Australian law enforcement are more united than ever to protect the community by stopping harmful drugs from reaching our streets and preventing criminals profiting from their illegal activities,” Mr Stone said.
According to ABF Chief Superintendent for the state, Brett Liebich, an increase in air cargo volumes during the pandemic has led to intensified efforts to overhaul illicit imports.
The 46-year-old man faced Adelaide Magistrates Court on Wednesday accused of the commercial quantity of drugs import offence, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
According to reports he made no application for bail and is expected to appear again before court in November.
Meanwhile, police say investigations are underway to find out who sent the shipment from Greece.