Cops crack Byron drug ring
POLICE smashed the most sophisticated ecstasy manufacturing operation in Australia as it was about to swing into full production, sparing countless lives on the party circuit, investigators say.
Officers from the multi-agency Strike Force Barsden raided six Far North Coast properties yesterday morning, arresting two Byron Shire men and shutting down Australia’s first clandestine laboratory capable of producing the precursor chemicals needed to make MDMA, the active chemical in the drug ecstasy, at Byrrill Creek near Uki.
Two pill manufacturing machines, both capable of producing a staggering 6000 pills an hour, were seized from a Byron Bay storage shed.
Australian Customs alerted police to the machines.
Police also seized ecstasy tablets, LSD, cannabis, cocaine, steroids, safrole oil (the precursor to MDMA) and cash from residences in Bangalow Road, Byron Bay; Hakea Court, Mullumbimby; and the Pacific Highway, Bangalow.
Documents relating to the operation and the supply of cocaine to Far North Queensland were seized from another residence in Byron Bay.
The raids followed a seven-month multi-agency investigation into cocaine supply and safrole oil manufacture.
Strike Force Barsden was formed in June last year with the assistance of the Australian Crime Commission and comprises officers from the State Crime Command’s Drug Squad, Tweed-Byron Local Area Command and Queensland Police.
NSW Drug Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Nick Bingham said the sharing of information between agencies was the key to the operation’s success.
“We believe we’ve broken the back of a major MDMA manufacturing syndicate here in Byron Bay,” he said.
“That should alleviate some of the problems in relation to MDMA supply in and around the Byron Bay area.”
Task force officers arrested and charged a 23-year-old Bangalow man and a 24-year-old Mullumbimby man at Byron Bay police station with the possession of drugs and the pill presses.
The Mullumbimby man was also charged with conspiracy to manufacture a prohibited drug. He was refused bail and ordered to appear at Byron Bay Local Court today.
The Bangalow man was further charged with cultivating a prohibited plant and granted conditional bail to appear at Mullumbimby Local Court on February 11.
Queensland police assisting the strike force arrested Byron Bay man Steven Miljak last November for supplying 425 grams of cocaine in Cairns.
Police are still investigating and expect to make more arrests shortly.
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham was shocked to hear of the raids and said it was always a real concern for any community to have its profile tainted by drugs or alcohol.
“My support is 100 per cent with the police for helping create a safer and healthier community,” she said.