Melbourne police break drug ring
By news.com.au – Thursday September 5 2002
CELEBRITIES on Melbourne’s A-list are likely to be quizzed about a record $10.6 million ecstasy seizure.
A man arrested over Victoria’s biggest haul of the party drug considers himself a mover and shaker around town.
His luxury black Saab is regularly parked outside gala events and he has rubbed shoulders with socialites and celebrities at a number of opening nights in recent weeks.
Australian Federal Police agents are expected to question people who attended the red carpet functions to try to establish any associations with the suspect.
They are keen to establish who was going to buy the 216,000 tablets seized this week.
The 54kg ecstasy haul was hidden in a consignment of pool filters shipped to Melbourne from the Netherlands.
Customs and AFP agents watched the container 24 hours a day for almost a month before the boxes were picked up and driven to a city apartment on Monday night.
Two men were arrested while unloading three boxes of ecstasy from a black 1997 Saab. One was later released.
AFP general manager (southern region) Graham Ashton said evidence pointed to an international organised crime gang.
He said the seized ecstasy tablets were stamped with the PlayStation logo in a deliberate attempt to make them more appealing to the youth market.
“The majority of ecstasy is generally consumed in the nightclub scenes and rave party scenes,” Mr Ashton said. “The application of logos to ecstasy, which has a youthful feel to it and has a bit of marketing hype to it, increases its appeal to that group.”
Mr Ashton said AFP agents would be conducting a full inquiry into the arrested man’s activities and with whom he had associated in Melbourne.
“The other people involved with this syndicate would be pretty worried,” he said.
“We are making some serious inroads into this particular group. We are satisfied that the arrest we have made is a significant arrest in terms of disruption of this group.”
Mr Ashton said the AFP office in The Hague was working closely with Netherlands police in a bid to identify the syndicate’s suppliers.
He said the container arrived at Melbourne’s docks by ship from Rotterdam on July 21.
Most of the ecstasy was removed and substituted and the container watched to see who came to pick it up.
It was moved to a warehouse in Campbellfield where it sat for almost a month before the drugs were picked up by two men who loaded it into a black Saab.
AFP agents followed the Saab to Mill Place, just off Flinders Lane, before arresting two men about 8.30pm on Monday.
Mr Ashton said one was later freed after AFP agents established he knew nothing of the drugs.
“It appears he was just there to help lift the boxes,” he said.
A man, 36, was charged with possession of a trafficable quantity of ecstasy and with attempting to possess and aiding and abetting the importation of a commercial quantity of ecstasy.
Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison said the seizure was the largest made in Victoria. “Although the exact value of the drugs is difficult to determine, based on street level prices . . . it could have an estimated potential street value of up to $10.8 million.”