By Gangsters Inc. Editors
Three men have been arrested in London, England, and two in Western Sydney, Australia, this week following the seizure of 450 kilos of MDMA hidden within an excavator (photo above) that was shipped into the Port of Brisbane in Australia from the United Kingdom earlier this year.
The National Crime Agency and Australian Federal Police (AFP) launched a joint investigation after the haul was discovered within the specially adapted boom of the machinery. Australian Border Force officers found the concealment when an x-ray revealed the anomalies on March 15, 2020. The boom had been lined with lead in an attempt to mask the 226 packages of MDMA. After being emptied of the illicit load, the excavator was delivered to its intended recipient in Sydney.
NCA investigators analyzing encrypted messages obtained as part of Operation Venetic – the UK investigation into the EncroChat network – uncovered the criminal conspiracy by a London-based crime group to import drugs into the UK, then export them in heavy plant machinery to Australia.
Messages sent on EncroChat devices between January and June 2020 detailed plans to purchase the excavator in the UK, hand-drawn illustrations of the concealment within the boom, costs relating to the importation and confirmation that it had been loaded onto a Vessel in Southampton on 24 January and arrived in Brisbane seven weeks later.
Two of the men believed to be involved in arranging the importation and exportation, Danny Brown, 53, and Stefan Baldauf, 60, were arrested in Putney by NCA officers on June 15. A third man, Peter Murray, 57, was detained outside his home address in Greenwich on October 1. All three were charged with drug conspiracy. Baldauf, a German national, was additionally charged with illegal entry in breach of a deportation order.
On Wednesday December 9, AFP officers arrested two men aged 33 and 42 who have also subsequently been charged.
“This was a global conspiracy to import huge amounts of class A drugs into the UK, then out to Australia,” Chris Hill, Senior Investigating Officer for the National Crime Agency, said. “Through close working with our Australian partners and analysis of encrypted messages recovered as part of Op Venetic, we were able to uncover this highly organized conspiracy and prevent the criminals behind it from making millions in illicit profits. In the UK, this amount of MDMA could potentially make close to £18 million. In Australia, profits would have been even higher – $79 million (£44m) if sold on the streets.”
“Drug trafficking incites violence, spreads fear and exploits the vulnerable. Disrupting the OCGs involved, particularly those at the top of the chain with international reach, is a top priority for the NCA.”
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