SYDNEY, May 29 – Police in Australia, Colombia and Panama combined to smash a major drugs syndicate, arresting 14 people and seizing a large quantity of cocaine, they said.
In a joint operation, authorities found more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of the drug worth tens of millions of dollars concealed in hydraulic oil in the Queensland town of Mackay on Friday.
A 38-year-old Australian man and two Colombian nationals, aged 30 and 42, were arrested and face a total of 26 charges, including importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
A third Colombian, 24, was also arrested in Mackay, with investigations ongoing.
In simultaneous action, Colombian police arrested seven nationals in Medellin on charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Panama authorities arrested three of their nationals at the same time on trafficking charges in Panama City in an operation that began in September 2009.
The head of the Australian Federal Police\’s Brisbane office, Mark Walters, said the cocaine was destined for Australia’s major eastern cities.
"This operation has dismantled a cocaine syndicate at every level, from the organisers, investors and financiers to the dealers peddling these drugs on our streets," he said.
"We\’ve choked the drug supply at the source in South America, apprehended the facilitators in Central America, we’ve taken out the major players of an organised crime syndicate within Australia.
"We\’ve put the drug distribution networks on notice in Australia’s major cities."
Australian police intercepted the cocaine-laced oil when it first arrived in Melbourne by sea on May 10, monitoring the consignment as it was ferried to Brisbane and then transported by rail to Mackay.