Arrest made after massive amount of cocaine mysteriously washes up on Australian beaches


A suspected drug trafficker has been charged after being linked to bricks of cocaine that mysteriously washed up on Australian beaches in 2023 and early 2024.

The unnamed 36-year-old man is from Brisbane, Australia, officials said in a news release Thursday. The suspect was alleged to be the head of a domestic crime network that directed the collection and distribution of multiple large imports of cocaine and other illicit drugs. According to the Australian Federal Police, the man imported more than two tonnes of cocaine into the country last year. The drugs are estimated to have a commercial value of $617.5 million.

The man also allegedly participated in a “failed plot” to import almost a ton of cocaine into the country. The attempt failed, officials said, and resulted in packages of cocaine bricks washing up on Australia's shores for several months in late 2023 and early 2024. Since then, about a third of 'this cocaine has been confiscated by the authorities.

“There was understandable community concern when cocaine washed up on beaches, beaches where our children play, swim and eat,” Australian Federal Police Superintendent Adrian Telfer said in a statement. “The AFP and our partners committed a significant amount of resources to ensure we maintained public safety and brought those allegedly responsible to justice.”

Bricks of cocaine recovered from an Australian beach.

Australian Federal Police

The man was arrested on Wednesday following a “major joint investigation” by several Australian agencies, including the Queensland Organized Crime Joint Task Force and the Australian Federal Police. The investigation, dubbed Operation Groot, began in early 2023, officials said.

More arrests are possible during the investigation, officials said, and officers from the Queensland Organized Crime Joint Task Force are continuing to execute search warrants in Australia's Brisbane and Hervey Bay areas.

The suspect, who made his first court appearance on Thursday, faces seven charges related to the “importation of commercial quantities of drugs and trafficking in the proceeds of crime,” officials said, and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He also faces 12 charges related to “allegedly using violence and threats to collect debts and intimidate rivals by engaging criminal associates to assault, bomb, shoot and extort his clients,” officials said.

The man is also suspected of being involved in a number of other ventures, including a plot to import about 1,200 pounds of cocaine into the mid-west region of Western Australia. The cocaine was seized by authorities after it was thrown from a bulk cargo ship and brought to a coastal city. Six men have already been charged in that incident, officials said.

The man is also suspected of being involved in attempts to import more than 22 tonnes of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin into Australia since late 2023, and other plots to bring cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine into the country between 2022 and in 2024.

Telfer said he hopes the man's arrest will serve as a warning to other “serious criminals.”

“The AFP and our partners are driven to attack organized crime groups at all levels and ensure we make it harder for other criminals to take their place,” Telfer said in the press release. “This means we will focus on syndicate bosses and those who work with them. Every time someone buys cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine in Australia, they are funding organized crime gangs that are responsible for violence here and around the world.” .


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