Airport link to cocaine ring arrests
Baggage handlers at Sydney Airport allegedly helped smuggle cocaine for a multi-million dollar drugs ring that NSW and federal police say they have smashed.
Police yesterday arrested 11 men, including a former NSW police sergeant and a former merchant banker, in raids throughout the city and have charged them with conspiring to smuggle and supply 20-30 kilograms of cocaine.
Although none of the men were baggage handlers, police say they believe the syndicate could not have sneaked suitcases filled with drugs past customs for more than a year without the help of handlers, the Herald has learnt.
The syndicate allegedly made $10 million from one drugs run from South America last year alone. Police allegedly found in a Bondi home a photo of a man wearing a black balaclava posing behind a small pyramid of $10 million in $100 and $50 notes stacked on the dining room table.
Police allege that he is one of the men arrested.
The targeting of baggage handlers comes amid concerns about security in cargo handling areas at Australian airports and claims by that Australian Schapelle Corby that the cannabis Indonesian authorities allegedly found in her luggage in October was planted.
Last night an adviser for Corby's legal team, Vasu Rasiah, said he was shocked by news of the arrests but said it was too late to help Corby, who faces life in jail if convicted of drugs smuggling.
"Every Australian should be upset by this news," he said.
The NSW and federal police said that yesterday's arrests had nothing to do with the nine Australians Bali police arrested last month allegedly trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia. The syndicate they were targeting allegedly smuggled cocaine out of South America.
Starting at dawn, police raided homes in Bondi, Brighton-Le-Sands, Collaroy, Coogee, Gladesville, Greenwich, Kings Cross, Maroubra, Normanhurst, Paddington, Padstow, Petersham, Pyrmont and Winston Hills. The ages of those arrested ranged from 18 to 70. No drugs were found.
The acting NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, who made the announcement with the Federal Police Special Operations Agent Michael Phelan and the head of the NSW Police Special Crime Unit working with the State Crime Commission, Assistant Commis-sioner John Carroll, said the arrests were the result of a five-month investigation.
Mr Scipione said it was unknown what happened to the $10 million. However, police said they found $1 million buried in a suitcase at one of the 15 premises they raided.
Only two of the arrested men have appeared in court.
A former merchant banker, 40, faced Central Local Court charged with importing a prohibited drug. He was refused bail and is to appear in Central Local tomorrow.
The other was a former NSW Police detective sergeant, 50, who faced Sutherland Local Court charged with supplying a prohibited drug. He was refused bail and was ordered to appear before Central Local Court next Tuesday.
The other men arrested in the raids included: a man from Maroubra, 56; a man from Coogee, 70; a man from Winston Hills, 28; a man from Kings Cross, 50; a man from Petersham, 55; a man from Bondi, 39; a man from Woy Woy, 33; and two brothers from Padstow, 37 and 18.
They are expected to face courts today.