SYDNEY, Australia - A 21-year old American drug lord has been arrested at Sydney International Airport as he was about to board a flight home to the U.S.
The arrest followed a joint operation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (ABF) and the seizure of 80 kilograms of MDMA, or 3,4-Methyl enedioxy methamphetamine otherwise known as ecstasy, destined for Sydney.
The youthful drug kingpin was arrested on Thursday night and on Friday was formally charged at the Sydney Central Local Court.
It is alleged the young man travelled to Australia to receive the consignment of MDMA and organise its distribution.
The MDMA was detected on Tuesday when ABF officers examined a commercial-grade electro-magnet that arrived into Sydney via air cargo from Germany.
Initial sampling and tests on the device returned a positive reaction to MDMA, and the matter was referred to the AFP.
AFP forensic members found 83 bags of a brown crystalline substance in a cavity in the device, which could only be accessed through the use of industrial-grade cutting equipment. Testing of this substance indicated it was MDMA, with an estimated total weight of 80 kilograms. Further forensic testing will determine its exact weight and purity, the AFP said in a statement.
AFP investigators say they identified the 21-year-old man as the intended recipient of the consignment, and he subsequently arrived on a flight into Melbourne on Wednesday night.
The Sydney court was told on Friday that he travelled to Sydney the next morning and then made a number of attempts to take possession of the consignment. When those attempts failed, he attempted to board a flight on the Thursday night to Honolulu, Hawaii. He was arrested at Sydney International Airport as he tried to board that flight.
AFP Detective Superintendent Nathan Barron, Coordinator National Response Operations Sydney, on Friday said further investigation with domestic and international partners would further examine the role of organised crime groups in the importation.
"Investigators believe the man arrested last night was acting on behalf of a larger organised crime syndicate to ensure this MDMA arrived in Australia. We also suspect this was to be passed on to other organised crime groups here in Sydney for wider distribution through their established networks," he said.
"This fast-moving investigation took only two days from detection to arrest, but it prevents approximately 80 kilograms of a harmful substance from reaching the Australian community."
"Working together, the ABF and the AFP have stopped approximately 80kg of this life-destroying drug reaching the Australian community" Acting ABF Regional Commander NSW Matthew O'Connor said Friday.
"Criminals who attempt to import these types of substances should know, no matter where you hide it or how complex the concealment, the ABF and our partner agencies will find it and bring you to justice."
The man was charged with one count of importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, contrary to section 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), and one count of attempt to possess a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, contrary to section 307.5(1), by virtue of section 11.1(1), of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).
The maximum penalty for both offences is life imprisonment.