A former NRL player and a Bondi businessman have been linked to a drug ring after New South Wales Police recorded the biggest cocaine haul in Australia’s history.
The joint strike force between Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police drug squad arrested 15 men and seized about $360 million worth of cocaine.
Police believe they have wiped out the entire drug syndicate, with Acting Assistant Commissioner Chris Sheehan saying he was “confident we have gone from the top to the bottom”.
“It has taken them completely out of business,” he said.
“We have ongoing enquiries, particularly in South America and other parts of the world, to look at who they were dealing with.”
Former Roosters player John Tobin is one of the accused smugglers, along with Bondi businessman Darren Mohr.
The criminal syndicate was allegedly using a trawler based at the Sydney Fish Market to meet a “mother ship” from South America to bring drugs into the country.
About 500 kilograms of the drug was seized on Christmas Day at Brooklyn on the central coast of New South Wales.
Police allege 600 kilograms was seized in Tahiti and 32 kilograms of heroin was found in Fiji with both loads destined for the market in Australia.
Mr Sheehan said the police operation had been running for almost three years and escalated with the arrests over the Christmas period.
“The criminal syndicate we have dismantled over the last few days was a robust, resilient and determined syndicate,” he said.
“This is the largest cocaine seizure we have had in Australia.
“It posed an ongoing and continued threat to the Australian community and without the work of our police, would still be in action today.”
Tip-off from community led to bust
Assistant Police Commissioner, Mark Jenkins said a member of the community gave them a tip-off two and a half years ago that led to the cocaine haul.
“As a result, over one tonne of drugs has been prevented from reaching the streets of New South Wales and harming the community,” he said.
“That small piece of information has resulted in 15 arrests and a large seizure of drugs.”
Officers allege the group of men, aged from 29 to 63, are involved in the Australian criminal syndicate responsible for the attempted imports.
They have been charged with serious drug importation offences and eleven of the 15 men have appeared before Parramatta Local Court and were refused bail.
A 49-year-old man and a 63-year-old man are due to appear before Central Local Court on Thursday.
Two other men, a 33-year-old and 39-year-old are also expected to front Nowra Local Court on Thursday after they were arrested at Ulladulla on Wednesday.
Police said they were confident all alleged members of the criminal syndicate were in custody.