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Fake cocaine used to lure suspects in Australia’s biggest-ever drugs bust

Australian police have intercepted $1bn worth of cocaine that had been entering the country’s west in an unprecedented drug bust.

Officers seized 2.4 tonnes cocaine from South America in a joint operation with the US called “Operation Beech”.

The drug had an estimated street value of about PS562.9m ($1bn Australian dollar). They were roughly half of Australia’s annual consumption, according police.

The operation was ongoing since November 2022 and led to 12 arrests.


Use fake cocaine to lure suspects

The vessel was seized by the Western Australian Police on 28 December. Intelligence suggests that the syndicate members were not aware of this and are still waiting to receive the shipment.

Police used the same packaging to substitute fake cocaine for the cargo in a clever plan to trap them.

Image: Police drop fake cocaine in the water. Photo by Western Australia Police

The drones and helicopters were used to monitor the condition of the object as they dropped it about 40 nautical miles west from Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

According to some reports, members of the syndicate used two boats – Catalina (or Cool Runnings) – to try to retrieve the cargo multiple times.

Image: The operation was carried out by police using drones and helicopters. Photo: Western Australia Police

Tactical response officers arrested three men aboard Cool Runnings on 30 December with approximately 1.2 tonnes fake cocaine.

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Nine additional arrests were made up to January 13, including on the Great Eastern Highway, approximately 373 miles (600 km) east of Perth. Officers found more than PS1.2m ($2m in cash) and officers arrested them.

Image: A vehicle on the Great Eastern Highway was seized with money. Photo: Western Australia Police

According to ABC, police charged a man aged 39 and a woman aged 37 who were allegedly linked to the syndicate.

Tony Longhorn, Deputy Commissioner, stated that it was a confidence booster. Every time we perform these operations, we are testing our limits.

He said that future drug activity will be dealt with by implementing innovative and collaborative strategies in police intelligence.


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