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    Six Sydney airport employees are facing drug importation charges after a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs were intercepted on an international aircraft.

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      airport drug importation

      Sydney Airport Employees Facing Drug Importation Charges

      Six Sydney airport employees are facing drug importation charges after a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs were intercepted on an international aircraft.

      Most of the defendants are from western Sydney suburbs and were arrested before being taken to police stations.

      Search warrants were also executed on their homes where various items of interest were seized, including large amounts of cash.

      The cases are listed at Downing Centre Local Court in November 2021.

      Drug Importation Investigation

      The drug importation investigation commenced in March 2019 when Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested two men and seized 38kg of methamphetamine. This had been imported into Sydney on an Air Canada flight.

      This resulted in import border controlled drug charges being laid against the men. However, it also led to the AFP Sydney Aviation Investigations team identifying a man suspected of being the principal of the drug importation operation.

      Police allege the man used an encrypted device and a ‘burner’ phone to communicate with an extended criminal syndicate.

      On 10 June 2021, police executed search warrants in Liverpool, NSW, where they seized approximately $100,000 in cash and charged a man and a woman with a range of offences. Their bail application lawyers will be able to seek their release from custody at Court.

      Operation Ironside

      The AFP, through Operation Ironside, claim that they were able to discover that the syndicate had begun planning another drug importation through Sydney Airport in late 2019.

      Detective Inspector Scott Sykes said the AFP was increasingly focusing on targeting trusted insiders working in Australia’s busiest airport.

      “These further charges show the AFP is continuing to utilise intelligence gained through Operational Ironside to target trusted insiders and other criminal enterprises within the aviation environment…People using their jobs at or access to Sydney Aviation Precinct to facilitate illegal activity for organised crime groups are going to be the target of increased AFP attention, and we are committed to ensuring the integrity and lawful operation of passenger and cargo operations into the future.”

      Significantly, Police allege the group consisted of people who had inside access to the airport. The six members of the criminal syndicate are past and present employees of a service provider at the airport.

      They are said to have used encrypted devices to communicate with each other.

      According to prosecutors, the group intended to import an unknown amount of border controlled drugs within a cargo box in the hold of a commercial aircraft on 7 March 2020.

      While the importation did not occur, this was said to be due to reduced flight schedules as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The steps taken prior to abandoning this plan included distributing encrypted AMOM devices to the members of the group and searching for suitable exchange locations within the airside area of Sydney Airport.

      Drug Importation Charges at Downing Centre Court

      It was following this that police charged the six members of the group on Wednesday, 13 October 2021 with a range of drug offences including:

      • A 32-year-old Oatley man and a 37-year-old Rockdale man were charged with direct one or more activities of a criminal organisation that was involved in the importation of border controlled drugs contrary to section 390.6(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth);
      • A 31-year old Mortdale man, a 32-year-old Liverpool man, and a 47-year-old Banksia man were charged with provide material support and resources to aid a criminal organisation that was involved in the importation of border controlled drugs contrary to section 390.4(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth); and
      • A 36-year-old Cronulla man was charged with associate with members of a criminal organisation that was involved in the importation of border controlled drugs, for the purpose of supporting this serious organised criminal activity contrary to section 390.3(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
      • The 32-year-old Liverpool man is scheduled to appear before Downing Centre Court on 9 November 2021.

      The other men are scheduled to appear before Downing Centre Local Court on 16 November 2021 where drug lawyers may appear for them and make an urgent bail application.

      Import Border Controlled Drug Charges

      Under the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth), if you import, or intend to import a border-controlled drug, you can be guilty of an offence.

      You can fight a drug importation charge in two ways. Firstly, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt:

      1. Import a substance OR Intend to import a substance
      2. That substance was a border controlled drug
      3. You were aware that it was a border controlled drug OR you knew there was a substantial risk it was a border controlled drug

      If any of these elements are not made out, then you can be found ‘not guilty’. This is different to a drug possession offence which will require possess border controlled drug lawyers.

      If you or a loved one has been accused of an offence involving drugs, it is important to obtain advice from a drug supply lawyer who has successfully defended hundreds of persons charged with these offences. You can read some similar cases by clicking here. Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email

      We have offices throughout the Sydney metropolitan area including Sydney CBD, Parramatta and Liverpool. We can arrange a conference for you with Law Society Accredited Specialist criminal lawyers.

      The definition of ‘Import’ includes bringing the substance into Australia as well as dealing with the substance in connection with its importation.

      This means that even if you were not the person who transferred the drug from one country to another, you may still be found guilty if you assisted in another step of the transfer of the drug – even if this was after the drug had arrived in Australia.

      You can be found ‘not guilty’ of importing a border controlled drug if the following defences to drug importation charges apply:

      1. You had no knowledge and there was not a substantial risk that the substance was a border-controlled drug.
      2. If a particular weight of the drug is alleged (eg. large commercial quantity) and the prosecution cannot prove that you were aware of the weight of the drug
      3. The Crown cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that you imported the drug or that you had the intention to import
      4. The prosecution cannot prove the substance was a border-controlled drug
      5. Duress: You were forced to commit the offence
      6. Necessity: Your actions were necessary

      It is almost inevitable that you will be sentenced to a term of full-time imprisonment if you are guilty of importing a commercial or large commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug. That is why it is crucial to speak to experienced drug supply lawyers early on.

      The statistics set out that 100% of persons found guilty to this offence were sentenced to some form of prison. Only one person received an Intensive Correction order – the remainder were sentenced to full-time imprisonment. The length of imprisonment ranges from 6 years to over 20 years.

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