Eight Australian men are in custody after police seized more than 1.2 tonnes of methamphetamine on a boat in Geraldton Western Australia.
In a six-month multi-agency operation with the Australian Federal Police and its WA Joint Organised Crime Taskforce, the boat Valkoista was monitored 400 kilometres off the coast north of Perth on Thursday.
Police allege the drugs, commonly known as ice worth a reported $1 billion, were destined for Australia’s east coast.
The drugs were allegedly offloaded into a white hire van shortly before 4am (WST) when tactical response police officers intercepted the van as it reversed from the dock.
Police arrested the three occupants of the van, a 33-year-old man from southern Sydney and two men from NSW, aged 38 and 52.
Simultaneously, police boarded the vessel and arrested three crew members onboard, a 45-year-old man from the NSW Central Coast and two men from South Australia, aged 48 and 44.
Two men from South Australia, both aged 37, were later arrested at a hotel in Hillarys in northern Perth for their alleged involvement in this drug importation.
AFP Deputy Commissioner Operations Leanne Close said police were continuing to gather and evaluate evidence.
“The success of this operation is a testament to the patience and dedication of our investigators, who have been working around the clock in the lead-up to Christmas to disrupt this record importation,” Deputy Commissioner Close said.
“The AFP will allege in court these men intended to distribute the drugs along the east coast of Australia – what these men didn’t count on was a calculated, intelligence-led response from the WA Joint Organised Crime Task Force which drew on the strengths and capabilities of the different agencies involved.”
Fifty-nine bags containing approximately 20 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized from the vehicle.
An additional bag containing approximately 20 kilograms of methamphetamine was found on the vessel, bringing the total amount of methamphetamine seized to around 1.2 tonnes.
ABF WA Regional Commander Rod O’Donnell praised the work of all involved, including the ABF’s Maritime Border Command and Strategic Border Command officers who provided significant monitoring and response capability during the operation, both on land and at sea.
“This result is the culmination of several months of hard work by officers and staff from a number of state and federal agencies and, once again, together we have stopped a significant amount of methamphetamine before it could reach the Australian community,” Commander O’Donnell said.
“Australia’s maritime border is vast and some criminals clearly think they can exploit that and evade detection – they are wrong. These criminals should always assume we are nearby and we are watching.”
It’s the second time in as many years authorities have intercepted a vessel off the coast of Geraldton with links to drug trafficking.