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Drug syndicate dismantled.

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MEDIA RELEASE Senator Amanda Vanstone Acting Minister for Justice and Customs 17 December 2003 Drug syndicate dismantled A multi-agency investigation has resulted in the seizure of approximately 32 kilograms of ecstasy tablets, the arrest of 12 people in Australia and the United Kingdom and the smashing of an international ecstasy trafficking syndicate, the Acting Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, said today. Senator Vanstone praised the work of the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs Service which led to the seizure and arrests. “Cooperative law enforcement has again brought an excellent result in the fight against drug trafficking,” Senator Vanstone said. A UK-based drug syndicate with connections in Sydney and Perth allegedly organised the shipment of approximately 165,000 tablets (32 kgs) of ecstasy with an estimated potential street value of up to $11.5 million inside the doors of six refrigerators in a shipment from the UK on 3 December. Acting on information provided by the AFP, Customs used its high-tech container examination facility in Melbourne to detect the illicit consignment, despite sophisticated concealment. AFP officers in Melbourne then removed the ecstasy and replaced it with an inert substance. The refrigerators were repacked and monitored by the AFP as they were transported by road to a warehouse in Sydney’s south. Yesterday, it is alleged that four people attempted to remove the drugs from the refrigerators. They were arrested at the warehouse. In a coordinated operation in Sydney, Darwin and the UK, the AFP searched eight premises and four vehicles in Sydney and made eight arrests; two people were arrested in Darwin, and the United Kingdom National Crime Squad arrested two people, including the alleged syndicate principal. Those arrested in Australia were charged with conspiracy to import a prohibited import and are due to appear in courts in Sydney and Darwin today. Two people have also appeared in London’s Bow Street Court. Senator Vanstone said the arrests were another major victory in the fight against illicit drug trafficking, with the combination of skilled, trained people and high technology again proving its worth. “Australia has a simple message for those who would attempt to import substances which can potentially bring great harm to our community - you will be caught and brought to justice,” she said. “I congratulate the officers involved in this significant operation, including the AFP, Customs, WA Police and the UK police.” Media inquiries: Simon Troeth (Sen. Chris Ellison’s office) (02) 6277 7260/(0439) 300 335