Australian police stopped 2.4 tons of cocaine worth $1 billion Australian dollars (approximately $676.8) from entering the country and netted 12 people with alleged ties to a drug gang, local media reported on Saturday.
Western Australia Police Commissioner Colonel Blanch said the operation lasted six weeks and required extensive surveillance and resources, according to ABC News.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Beech,” resulted in the arrest of 12 people with suspected ties to the Mexican drug cartel.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration intercepted 2.4 tons of cocaine bound for Western Australia off the South American coast in November, in what is believed to be the country’s largest-ever drug bust, the media outlet said.
According to intelligence, the alleged drug traffickers were unaware of the seizure, and the syndicate’s Australian arm expected to receive the shipment around Dec. 28.
“This was an opportunity to catch the syndicate — the group of people that were capable of receiving it, landing it, and then distributing it across Australia,” the media outlet quoted Commissioner Blanch as saying.
Western Australia Police replaced the cargo with fake cocaine and dropped it 40 nautical miles west of Perth while monitoring it with drones and aircraft.
Tactical Response Group officers arrested three men aboard the Cool Runnings with approximately 1.2 tons of fake cocaine on Dec. 30 after the boat washed up on the shore near Moore River, 70 kilometers (43.4 miles) north of Perth.
Raids were conducted throughout Perth, including on the Catalina at Hillarys Boat Harbour and different hotels.
Police also pulled over a car on the Great Eastern Highway and discovered over 2 million Australian dollars (approximately $1.354 million) in cash. They charged a 39-year-old man and a 37-year-old lady with being members of the syndicate, according to ABC News.
The 12 detained are from Western Australia, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, and the US.
Source: Anadolu Agency