Canadian man charged in massive Australian drug bust denied bail

November 21, 2012

A Canadian man was the kingpin behind a major trafficking scheme that tried to smuggle cocaine and methamphetamine into Australia by hiding the drugs in heavy machinery, police said.

The Australian Federal Police said Wednesday that it had seized illicit drugs worth $245-million (Cn.) and arrested two men in the Sydney area, including a 34-year Canadian.

The Canadian was arrested at a residence in Avalon, a suburb north of Sydney. He was charged with two trafficking criminal counts and appeared in Sydney Central Local Court Monday, where he was denied bail.

"The AFP will allege he was both the financier and organizer of the importation," AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner David Sharpe told a news  conference.

The other suspect, a 33-year-old American, appeared in court Wednesday.

Assistant Commissioner Sharpe said further arrests are possible.

"These are two significant players in this syndicate and our inquiries are continuing in both China and, offshore, in Canada, and as well our investigations are continuing in Australia."

He said the probe, codenamed Operation Pendine, began in July 2010 after the AFP received "information generated from intelligence in Australia."

By September, police were monitoring a container shipment of heavy machinery from China.

The shipment landed at Sydney's Port Botany and the AFP executed search warrants earlier this month, finding in a road roller, the type used to compact gravel and asphalt, in a storage unit in Warriewood, north of Sydney.

The drug, which was initially hidden in the roller, was now in 13 sports bags.

Police said they seized 235 kilograms of methamphetamine and 115 kilos of cocaine, worth an estimated street value of up to $245-million

About $155,000 in cash was also found when the American suspect was arrested, at a home in the suburb of Leichhardt.

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