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Friday, 8 August 2008

Pasquale ''Pat'' Barbaro, Crown casino high-roller and Rob Karam and the founder of the Black Uhlans bikie gang John William Samuel Higgs arrested


03:11 |

Police today busted the Australian arm of a Mafia-linked drug ring which smuggled massive amounts of ecstasy into Melbourne.In conjunction with the Australian Customs Service, police have seized 5.6 tonnes of ecstasy pills and 150kg of cocaine during a three-year operation. Almost 20 million ecstasy tablets were seized during the exhaustive probe, which involved hundreds of AFP agents. The bust is a world record amount for ecstasy and includes the largest amount of cocaine ever detected in Victoria.The drugs have a street value of about $600 million. AFP agents began raiding properties around Australia early today and by 8.30am had arrested 14 men and one woman. Nine of those arrests were in Melbourne and the other arrests were made in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia. AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty today named some of the arrested as Griffiths man Pasquale ''Pat'' Barbaro, Crown casino high-roller and Tony Mokbel mate Rob Karam and the founder of the Black Uhlans bikie gang in Melbourne John William Samuel Higgs.Various close relatives of Mr Barbaro, 46, were named in the Woodward Royal Commission as being members of the Calabrian Mafia gang responsible for the 1977 murder of Donald Mackay.
Mr Keelty revealed 400 AFP agents conducted more than 10,000 hours of secret surveillance on gang members and that the AFP estimated the international drug syndicate was responsible for 60 per cent of all drug importations into Australia.
Members of various organised crime gangs collaborated with each other in a rare case of unity to fund and organise the massive ecstasy shipments. AFP intelligence suggests Australian members of the Calabrian mafia played major roles in the international syndicate. They teamed up with criminals from other gangs, including some of Lebanese extraction. A founding member of a Melbourne bike gang was among those arrested today. One of those arrested in Griffith in New South Wales has strong links to the Calabrian mafia cell responsible for the murder of anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay. That Australia was on the smuggling route of an international gang dominated by the Calabrian mafia came as no surprise to Italian organised crime experts. The Calabrian secret society at the centre of the global drug racket is known in Calabrian dialect as N'Dranghita.
N'Dranghita has had very strong cells in Australia since at least the 1930s.
It is particularly prevalent in Melbourne, Mildura and Shepparton in Victoria, Griffith in New South Wales, Adelaide and Canberra.
N'Dranghita is called L'Onorata Societa or the Honoured Society by some Italians, La Famiglia or the Family by others, and simply the mafia by most in Australia. It is the gang responsible for the the 1977 murder of Griffith anti-drugs crusader Donald Mackay.
N'Dranghita has been responsible for growing and distributing much of Australia's marijuana for decades. It also got involved in heroin importations in 1978 through now dead crime boss Robert Trimbole and is known to have been involved in massive cocaine importations since at least 2000. The AFP has been working closely with several overseas law enforcement agencies to gather evidence to bust the network's Australian arm.
The arrests followed the arrival in Melbourne on July 24 of a shipping container with three 50kg bags of cocaine hidden in a load of coffee.
AFP agents seized the cocaine and replaced it with fake drugs and left the container at Melbourne docks in the hope gang members would collect it.
Strong intelligence collected by the AFP since the cocaine arrived suggests the syndicate members became aware the shipment might have been detected by police and they abandoned it. But the AFP already had sufficient evidence from the cocaine haul, and the earlier ecstasy shipments, to begin today's coordinated raids around the nation.
Two separate loads of ecstasy pills arrived in Melbourne from Italy in shipping containers and the recent cocaine haul was imported by ship from Colombia.
Both ecstasy shipments were of world record size at the time and the second of 14.5 million tablets is still the largest single seizure of the drug in the world.
AFP agents seized the first 1.2 tonne ecstasy shipment in Melbourne in 2005 and the second 4.4 tonne shipment at Melbourne docks in 2007. Arrests were made over the first ecstasy haul and its presence revealed.
But the 4.4 tonne shipment was kept secret in the hope doing so would lead to more evidence being gathered against the international syndicate. Those arrested are expected to appear in court later today to face drug charges.


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