Australia’s Top Five Drug Busts

Did you know that the largest drug bust in Australia was also the biggest in the world?

Or that the HMAS Newcastle was responsible for seizing over $1 billion of drugs from the high seas this year?

From hiding drugs in tomato cans to smuggling them inside road rollers, these cunning drug traffickers went to extreme lengths in an attempt to reap a princely profit.

Here we outline five of Australia’s biggest ever drug busts.

85.5 Kilos of Cocaine and 192.2 kilos of Methylamphetamine – Street Value $260 million

Canadian man Mark Clermont hatched a plan to get rich quick – but it all ended in disaster when he was charged with importing 85.5 kilograms of pure cocaine and 192.9 kilograms of pure methylamphetamine, with a combined street value of $260 million.

Clermont was recruited to expand the operations of an international drug syndicate into Australia; arriving here in 2010. The elaborate scheme had him working for a seemingly legitimate business that imported tractors, forklifts and other equipment. After two years on the job, the drug syndicate sought to import hundreds of kilograms of drugs inside the barrel of a road roller, in an effort to ‘defeat x-ray examination of the roller by Australian Customs.’

But police became suspicious and dismantled the roller, finding drugs stashed inside. Clermont denied any knowledge or involvement in the scheme, but he was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. His associate, Mathieu Horobjowsky, was given a minimum of 13 years behind bars.

724 kilograms of Narcotics – Street Value $597 million

The Navy is tasked with protecting Australia’s border security, and the HMAS Newcastle plays a special role in stopping illegal substances from entering our shores.

This year, the HMAS Newcastle was used to seize 724 kilograms of narcotics from another vessel, with an estimated street value of $597 million. It also seized another 581 kilograms of drugs worth around $520 million earlier in the year.

584kg of Ice – Street Value $438 million

We are constantly being told that an ice epidemic has recently swept through the country, but back in 2013 police made a huge bust in Sydney, preventing 584 kilograms of ice with an estimated street value of $438 million from hitting the streets.

The bust left three men facing lengthy prison sentences after police acted on a call to their Asian Crime Squad.

The resulting four-month investigation culminated in police linking several shipping containers to organised crime, and seizing 38 plastic bags containing a crystalline substance which was later identified as being methylamphetamine.

2.8 Tonnes of MDMA and Methamphetamine – Street Value $1.5 billion

A massive bust involving 2.8 tonnes of MDMA and methylamphetamine worth a record $1.5 billion landed six men before the courts in 2014.

A joint operation involving the AFP, NSW Police and Australian Customs uncovered the consignment inside a German cargo ship container, where they were reportedly concealed amongst furniture.

It is believed that the importation was a combined effort on behalf of various organised crime groups – with international investigations ongoing.

4.4 Tonnes of Ecstasy – Street Value $122 million

Drug busts are becoming more commonplace as police are invested with greater resources as part of the ongoing ‘drug war’.

But the award for the biggest – and most creative – trafficking activity uncovered to date goes to Carmelo Falanga, Jan Visser, Saverio Zirilli and Pasquale Barbaro.

The men were busted in 2007 for attempting to import 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy, with a street value of $122 million, inside 3,000 cans of tinned tomatoes hidden in a shipping container – making it not only the biggest drug bust in Australia, but also the world.

The haul equated to 15 million ecstasy pills. Barbaro, who is linked to the Calabrian Mafia, was handed down a prison sentence of at least 30 years, while Zirilli is expected to spend at least 18 years behind bars. Falanga and Visser received sentences of 16.5 and 8 years respectively.

Ugur Nedim About Ugur Nedim
Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Sydney’s Leading Firm of Criminal & Drug Defence Lawyers.

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