Man took 2 days to unload $65m of cocaine: Police

 

Removing $65 million worth of smuggled cocaine that has been hidden inside enormous metal hydraulic cylinders is not a quick job.

For 45-year-old Lee Martin, from Sydney's north shore, police will allege it took him two straight days - without sleep.

Investigators from the Australian Federal Police claim they know this because they had a rotating team of officers secretly watching on as Martin allegedly took an eternity to unpack 144 individual 1kg blocks inside a Botany warehouse.

Neutral Bay man Lee Martin is arrested inside a Botany warehouse.
Neutral Bay man Lee Martin is arrested inside a Botany warehouse.

 

Authorities had intercepted the cocaine and replaced it with a harmless white powder.
Authorities had intercepted the cocaine and replaced it with a harmless white powder.

 

Part of the hydraulic cylinders inside a Botany warehouse which police allege was used to smuggle almost $65 million worth of cocaine.
Part of the hydraulic cylinders inside a Botany warehouse which police allege was used to smuggle almost $65 million worth of cocaine.

Police had earlier intercepted the shipment and replaced the cocaine with a harmless white powder.

Over 48 hours leading up to Friday, Martin allegedly unloaded and dismantled two hydraulic cylinders.

Inside the large pistons were six metal drums. And each of those had 24 blocks inside, many of which featured a KTM logo.

As the hours ticked by and the officers' shifts finished, new police would arrive to continue watching and it is alleged Martin unpacked the blocks inside the Rochester St warehouse, which was also full of restored vintage sports cars.

Police searching the warehouse which was full of vintage cars.
Police searching the warehouse which was full of vintage cars.

 

Some of the blocks of white powder found inside the warehouse.
Some of the blocks of white powder found inside the warehouse.

 

A police dog helps in the search at the warehouse.
A police dog helps in the search at the warehouse.

Once the job was complete, police will allege in court that they had the evidence they needed and moved in and arrested Martin.

An investigation into the drugs, known as Operation Tethys, was sparked earlier this month after Australian Border Force investigators detected the drugs hidden inside the hydraulic cylinders after they were shipped from South Africa to Brisbane on October 1.

The matter was handed over to the AFP who will allege in court that Martin was not a foot soldier but a key player in the operation who facilitated the importation and was to set to play a major role in distributing it in Australia.

One of the hydraulic cylinders found inside the warehouse.
One of the hydraulic cylinders found inside the warehouse.

During the search of the warehouse and another, police also found US currency, gold bullion and silver ingots.

Police also found gold bullion.
Police also found gold bullion.

According to property records, one of the warehouses was owned by a company of which Martin was a director.

AFP Detective Superintendent Ben McQuillan said investigations were continuing with international law enforcement partners to dismantle the rest of the alleged organised crime group responsible for the massive drug shipment.

"We believe further investigation of this matter will reveal significant links to organised

criminal elements," Det Supt McQuillan said. "We suspect this because of the money involved in purchasing 144kg of cocaine in source countries, and the cost of obtaining the industrial machinery to conceal it and then ship it more than halfway around the world."

Martin faced Parramatta Bail Court on Saturday where he did not apply for bail.

Originally published as Man took 2 days to unload $65m of cocaine: Police


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