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Australia nets biggest cocaine bust on record
[SYDNEY] A major cocaine ring has been dismantled in joint operations with Tahiti, Australian police said Thursday, with a record 1.1 tonnes of cocaine worth hundreds of millions of dollars seized.
Police listed 600 kilogrammes of cocaine intercepted by the French navy off Tahiti, 500 kilogrammes seized on Christmas Day in Sydney and 32 kilogrammes of heroine in Fiji - all destined for the Australian market.
"The size of that seizure collectively - 1.1 tonnes - makes it the largest cocaine seizure in Australian law enforcement history," said Australian Federal Police acting Assistant Commissioner Chris Sheehan.
The street value of the cocaine, shipped from South America, was estimated at Aus$360 million (S$375.1 million).
"The criminal syndicate that we have dismantled over the past few days was a robust, resilient and determined syndicate," he said.
"It's a significant hit... the entire group has been taken out," added NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins.
"It's quite a chunk out of the cocaine economy." The investigation began more than two years ago following a tip from a member of the public and enquiries were continuing, notably in South America.
The arrested, aged between 29 and 63 years, were charged with serious drug importation offences and all were refused bail.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph said one of the 15 in custody was a former rugby league star and another a Bondi businessman.
With high street prices attracting drug sellers to Australia, police said they made more than 18,000 imported drug seizures in the last year.