Buckets containing the alleged cocaine suspended in another substance at the Durong shed (Photo: AFP)

July 22, 2022

Two men – including a dual Spanish-Colombian national – were due to appear in Kingaroy Magistrates Court on Friday charged over their alleged connection to a criminal network importing and manufacturing hundreds of kilograms of cocaine.

The pair, 48 and 38, were arrested at a rural property in Durong overnight.

Police will allege a purpose-built cocaine extraction shed had been built on the property under the direction of a Colombian organised crime syndicate.

An Australian Federal Police spokesperson said nine people were arrested across Queensland, the Northern Territory and NSW overnight and charged with a variety of serious drug and money-laundering offences carrying maximum penalties of up to life imprisonment.

A man whom the AFP will allege directed the Australian activities of a Colombian-based organised crime group was arrested in Darwin.

It will be alleged the man, 33, received instructions from overseas about a shipment of cocaine smuggled into NSW.

A multi-state AFP operation then tracked the cocaine, which was suspended in another substance inside plastic buckets, from Sydney to the Durong property.

Five men and a woman were arrested on Thursday night in Queensland, including the two men at Durong.

Police will allege they were extracting and manufacturing commercial quantities of cocaine.

Another man, aged 35, was arrested at his Gold Coast home, while a 31-year-old man was arrested at his Brisbane residence on charges related to organising and facilitating the operation.

Police will allege 700kg of cocaine could have been produced.

The 31-year-old man allegedly helped organise the construction of the Durong extraction facility and used suspected criminal proceeds to pay for items the syndicate required to make it operational.

A western Sydney man, 38, was arrested north of Newcastle as he drove back to Sydney from Queensland.

When AFP officers searched his utility they allegedly found about 11kg of cocaine hidden inside two small fridges.

The AFP also arrested a 33-year-old Spring Hill man in Brisbane who allegedly collected the drugs from the Durong property to provide to the courier travelling to Sydney.

A 32-year-old woman was arrested at her Brisbane home where police seized more than $1 million in cash that police will allege are the proceeds of crime.

One of the men arrested in Durong is a dual Spanish-Colombian national, 48, who flew to Australia and allegedly teamed up with a Colombian-born Sydney man, 38, as the chemical specialists responsible for extracting the cocaine from the substance it was hidden in.

The AFP spokesperson said the investigation began with the Colombian-born Sydney man, known to law enforcement.

This man picked up the Spanish-Colombian dual national from Sydney Airport on May 18, and their subsequent activities led investigators to suspect they were involved in illegal activity.

The two men travelled to the Gold Coast in late May, meeting with the Gold Coast man who allegedly organised the construction of the facility at Durong.

After AFP officers arrested a Darwin man, 33, outside a gym on Thursday evening, they executed a search warrant at his home and allegedly seized thousands of dollars in cash, electronic devices and steroids. They also seized a 7.8-metre boat, suspected to be an instrument of crime.

The AFP is investigating if the vessel was acquired to collect illicit drugs dropped at sea hundreds of kilometres off the Northern Territory coast.

A Gold Coast man, 30, was also arrested in Darwin and charged over his alleged involvement in the manufacturing operation.

Investigations are continuing into the exact circumstances of how and when the cocaine was imported into Australia.

* * *

Six men – aged 48, 38, 35, 33, 31 and 30 – have been charged with conspiracy to manufacture a commercial quantity of controlled drugs.

A Spring Hill man, 33, has been charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of controlled drugs.

A western Sydney man, 38, has been charged with supplying a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs, namely cocaine.

A woman, 32, has been charged with knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime.

The nine people will appear in various courts in Queensland, NSW and the Northern  Territory over the next few days.

 

UPDATE: Alexander Villegas Jaramillo, 38, and Fabio Fernandez Pulgarin, 48, appeared in Kingaroy Magistrates Court on Friday.

Neither applied for bail and both were remanded in custody until October 17.

Inside the alleged purpose-built cocaine extraction facility at Durong (Photo: AFP)
Chemicals seized by police at the alleged Durong cocaine extraction facility (Photo: AFP)
Refrigerators allegedly seized by the AFP in the back of a utility which was driving back to Sydney from Queensland
(Photo: AFP)
Stacks of cocaine allegedly located inside the utility (Photo: AFP)

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