$2m airport cocaine syndicate broken up: police

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    $2m airport cocaine syndicate broken up: police

    Six men have been arrested over a cocaine importation syndicate allegedly involving workers at Sydney Airport's international terminal.

    It will be alleged the men were involved in an operation that imported almost $2 million worth of cocaine over the past 18 months and used employees at Sydney Airport to collect the packages from arriving flights, the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

    Investigators yesterday allegedly seized one kilogram of cocaine with an estimated street value of $350,000.

    Three of the accused appeared at Central Local Court today. Wayne Charles Williams, 55, from Mascot, Matthew Robert Hay, 43, from Marylands, and Jose Alquillera, 47, from Glenwood all appeared in court one charged over the cocaine haul.

    Mr Alquillera and Mr Hay were both wearing yellow neon work vests and are both employees of Sydney Airport Catering company Gate Gourmet.

    Mr Williams, wearing a South Sydney Rabbitohs rain jacket, is a former employee of Gate Gourmet.

    All three were refused bail and will reappear in the same court at later dates.

    The only one to apply for bail, Mr Hay, challenged the federal police's brief of evidence, saying that there was very little evidence of his knowledge or participation in the alleged syndicate and text messages intercepted by police to or from him "support innocence".

    In refusing his bail magistrate Jane Culver said the facts revealed a strong prosecution case and noted that Mr Hay and another defendant had been found in possession of cocaine.

    "Telephone intercepts ... reveal an ongoing plan between the defendant and co-defendants," Ms Culver told the court.

    Several more men are due to appear at court over the syndicate in coming days.

    Homes raided

    The men, aged between 20 and 55, were arrested yesterday by officers from the federal police and Customs and Border Protection Command, who have been investigating the alleged syndicate since 2007.

    Investigators raided homes in Bexley, Glenwood, Matraville, Merrylands, Mascot and Maroubra, seizing an unknown quantity of Australian and foreign currency, the statement said.

    A commercial premises in Mascot was also raided.

    Federal police acting national aviation manager Steve Grant said up to 12 police officers worked full-time on the investigation, helping intercept more than 58,000 telephone calls.

    "It is believed that this investigation has resulted in the dismantling of an international drug syndicate that relied upon the involvement of airport staff, which is an exceptional result," Commander Grant said.

    "The Joint Airport Investigation Team targets serious and organised crime including targeting trusted insiders [employees] who exploit or aim to exploit security vulnerabilities at major airports."

    Since the operation began, the team has investigated several related incidents, including the importation of 5.7 kilograms of cocaine in December 2007, which was found inside a plane.

    The consignment had an estimated street value of $1.6 million.

    September 21, 2009 - 1:15PM


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