Australia

Police seize 1,100kg in Australia's 'largest cocaine bust'

Australian police seized 500kg (1,100lb) of cocaine on Christmas Day Image copyright Australian Federal Police
Image caption The drugs are believed to have originated in South America

Fifteen men have been charged after police said they made the biggest cocaine bust in Australia's history.

The drugs, with an estimated street value of A$360m (£212m; $258m), were uncovered after a police investigation over more than two years.

Police said they seized 500kg (1,100lb) of cocaine from a boat in Brooklyn, north of Sydney, on Christmas Day.

It followed the confiscation of 600kg in drugs in Tahiti. Police believe they were destined for Australia.

"The size of that seizure collectively makes it the largest cocaine seizure in Australian law enforcement history," Australian Federal Police acting assistant commissioner Chris Sheehan told reporters.

"The criminal syndicate we have dismantled over the last few days was a robust, resilient and determined syndicate."

The drugs are believed to have originated in South America.

Image copyright Australian Federal Police
Image caption The investigation by police lasted two years

Local media reported one of the accused men was a former National Rugby League player.

In early December, police and border officials began monitoring a vessel that was travelling between Sydney's popular fish markets and the central coast of New South Wales.

On Christmas night, police said a small boat was launched from the vessel and later docked in Brooklyn. Authorities swooped on the boat and arrested three men. Another 12 men have been arrested over the past several days.

The men, aged between 29 and 63, have been charged with conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs.

If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Mr Sheehan claimed the men were "well-connected" and part of a sophisticated crime group.

Image copyright Australian Federal Police
Image caption More than a ton of cocaine has been recovered

"We've gone from the top to the bottom, the entire group has been taken out," he said.

New South Wales Police assistant commissioner Mark Jenkins said officers spent thousands of hours on the operation.

"This job started with a thread of information that was given to the New South Wales drugs squad over two-and-a-half years ago," he said.

"I want to thank the community for that information."

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