STATE and federal police are chasing one of Australia's largest heroin importations amid concerns it will lead to a flood of the drug in Sydney and Melbourne and further enrich one of the country's most powerful bike gangs, the Comanchero.
A shipment of 175 kilograms of Chinese heroin, worth more than $50 million - which would translate into more than 4 million hits on the street - arrived at Port Botany in Sydney from Bangkok in late July.
The shipment was organised by an international crime network in the weeks before one of Australia's biggest organised crime probes, Operation Hoffman, arrested key syndicate members.
Police working with Operation Hoffman seized 28 kilograms of the heroin in Mascot when they arrested two of the syndicate members last month, but 70 kilograms made their way to a notorious Sydney heroin dealer and 77 kilograms to two senior Comanchero figures.
Underworld sources have confirmed that about two weeks later the same two Comanchero figures kidnapped, bashed and tortured the Sydney dealer to obtain his 70 kilograms.
They forced him to pull over as he drove in Sydney's inner west by flashing police-issue blue and red lights at him.
But when he got out of the car in an alley behind the Garry Owen Hotel in Rozelle, one of the men fired a shot from a nine-millimetre pistol and the dealer was then taken elsewhere.
He was handcuffed, bashed and tortured. Eventually he revealed the location of his heroin, as well as a stash of cash amounting to between $700,000 and $1 million.
It is understood the 147 kilograms is to be sold in Sydney and Melbourne.
Sources suggest the import comprised 500 350-gram blocks of heroin and is almost double the size of the total heroin seizures in the year to June last year.
The heroin theft and sales by the two Comanchero figures are seen by some underworld sources as an attempt to capitalise on the arrests of senior crime figures by Operation Hoffman, which finished last month.
The Herald revealed Operation Hoffman - a two-year, multi-agency probe led by the Australian Crime Commission - exposed an international drug import network of triads, Comanchero bikies, corrupt officials and waterfront workers.
One of the key Hoffman figures, Hakan Ayik, is on the run after NSW police issued an arrest warrant last month in connection to his alleged involvement in the heroin importation.
The collapse of the syndicate, as well as the heroin importation and its consequences, also open a window into the large world of transnational organised crime and the role it plays in Australia.
The revelation of the import comes just a day after the Herald revealed that one of the world's most powerful organised crime syndicates, the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, had infiltrated Australia, importing more than half the cocaine used on the east coast over the past two years.
One of the two Comanchero linked to the theft of the heroin and its recent distribution is one of the gang's most senior figures.
Since the drug theft the pair have made no secret of their crime and have been proclaiming its success loudly around the city. The blatant rip-off has also served to increase the reputation of the Comanchero.
A senior law enforcement source said the theft had caused nervousness in the criminal milieu in both Sydney and Melbourne.
''There'll be a whole lot of drug dealers very, very concerned about what they did, because if they've done it once, they could do it again,'' he said.
Dylan Welch and Nick McKenzie
September 16, 2010