Three Melbourne men, including an alleged Russian organised crime member, have been charged with firearms and proceeds of crime offences as part of an ongoing Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (VIC-JOCTF) investigation.
The trio faced Melbourne Magistrates Court after being arrested last Wednesday when police allegedly found a number of firearms, explosive devices and about $1 million in illicit cash during search warrants executed across Melbourne.
Two of the men, aged 49 and 46, were remanded in custody and did not seek bail. The third man, aged 64, from Brighton, was granted bail by the court.
“The JOCTF responded to an alert from Australian Border Force (ABF) following the detection of a counterfeit Dutch passport in the international mail stream,” Australian Federal Police said in a statement.
ABF officers found the fake passport in a package addressed to a business in Burwood, sent via air cargo. Police conducted a controlled delivery of the package to the Burwood address on 5 January, where an individual working for the business allegedly accepted the package.
“On the same day, a 46-year-old North Fitzroy man attended the business and departed with the package. He then allegedly delivered it to the alleged Russian organised crime member,” AFP said.
“Police allegedly identified the 49-year-old man in the passport photo and believe he was planning to use the document to depart Australia undetected and avoid facing court.”
The AFP Tactical Response team arrested the 49-year-old in Port Melbourne, where he was allegedly found in possession of a mobile handset in contravention of his bail conditions.
When officers searched his possessions, they also allegedly found an envelope containing a large amount of cash and a camera which had stored images of various firearms and a grenade.
Police then executed a search warrant at the man’s Albert Park home where they found and seized gold bullion coins, five USBs, multiple mobile phones and about $400,000 in Australian and US currency.
Victoria Police members subsequently attended a Tyabb property allegedly linked to the group.
Police excavated soil from the area and uncovered six storage cases that contained sophisticated explosive devices. Also located were a large number of assorted firearms, ammunition and a substance suspected by police to be drugs.
Victoria Police Bomb Response Unit (BRU) members and detectives from the Arson and Explosives Squad attended the property to assess the explosives for safe disposal.
Police also attended the location in Humevale and excavated an area to reveal an additional storage case and a length of PVC pipe, both of which contained firearms and ammunition.
The 46-year-old man was arrested at his home in North Fitzroy, where police located and seized three unlawful firearms, a small amount of cocaine and methamphetamine, and three mobile phones during a search warrant.
A third man, 64, was arrested in Melbourne’s CBD. A search warrant was executed by police at his Brighton home where they seized about $600,000 cash.
A fifth search warrant was executed at another Albert Park property allegedly linked to the men, where police seized a small amount of a white powder suspected to be illicit drugs, a laptop and three mobile phone handsets.
Police will allege more than 40 guns were seized in total during the investigation.
AFP Detective Acting Superintendent David MacGregor said the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce had successfully removed a range of deadly weapons from the hands of alleged organised crime gang members.
“Criminals may use firearms and other weapons to intimidate others or commit violence but even when they are targeting each other, innocent bystanders – including their own families – risk being harmed or killed,” Det A/Supt MacGregor said.
“The nature of this alleged offending is very concerning and our investigations are continuing into organised criminal group links.
“Removing cash suspected to be linked to illegal activity is also important to prevent it being used to fund future criminal ventures.
“The AFP will continue to work with law enforcement partners to make Australia a hostile environment for serious organised crime groups and stop them from profiting at the community’s expense.”