Dec 29, 2008

World - Australia says global drugs kingpin arrested

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian police Monday said they had arrested a man who allegedly headed a cocaine trafficking syndicate which spanned three continents.

Police said the man, accused of operating a trafficking network out of Australia, Canada and the Netherlands, was Friday charged with conspiring to import the drug following his extradition from Holland.

The network's couriers allegedly swallowed and then transported the drugs around the world.

Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Tim Morris said local police and their international counterparts had arrested "a key player in this global drug syndicate" after a two-year operation.

"This syndicate targets people who are vulnerable either financially or because of their own drug dependency, to participate in the extremely risky and dangerous method of swallowing drug parcels for concealment from authorities," he said in a statement.

The accused appeared in a Melbourne court on Monday and asked that his name be suppressed, saying he feared for his life, national news agency AAP said.

The man, who faces a maximum penalty of a 550,000 Australian dollar (about 375,000 US) fine and/or 25 years imprisonment, was granted the suppression until he is due in court again on January 8, it said.

So far 12 people have been arrested in Australia and overseas in connection with the syndicate, police said.

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