By Adam Thomas, Editorial Intern
The drug bust previously reported in the Feb. 21 edition of Random Lengths News a seizure of 1.9 tons of methamphetamine known as “ice” at the Port of Los Angeles on Jan.11, is related to a “violent” Mexican cartel that operates out of California according to news reports citing Australian authorities.
“We now believe Mexican cartels are now targeting Australia,” said Bruce Hill, the Organized Crime Assistant Commissioner with the Australian Federal Police during a press conference in Melbourne that revealed the police operation.
“They have been sending smaller amounts of ice over the years, but this is now flagging the intent that Australia is now being targeted.”
Hill would not name which cartel is involved; only saying it “is among the most powerful and violent drug trafficking syndicates in the world.”
The sophisticated drug running operation that both Australian and American federal authorities said they broke up early last month was recorded as the largest drug bust ever for Australia, and the largest meth bust ever recorded for U.S. drug agents. Over 3,800 pounds of ice was discovered hidden in 850 electrical capacitors disguised as loudspeakers in two shipping containers bound for Melbourne, Australia by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, along with smaller quantities of cocaine and heroin.
On Feb. 7, Australian authorities moved on suspects related to the discovered narcotics, arresting six people including a pair of Americans who were living in Woodstock, Australia: Nasser Abo Abdo, 52, and Leonor Fajardo, 46. They were arraigned in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Feb. 8 and charged with the “Attempt to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs,” and possession, crimes that in the Land Down Under carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
While Abo Abdo’s fate will be decided on June 17, further investigation sheds light on at least some of his potential role in the international smuggling operation. The Sydney Morning Herald discovered that the brand names of the speakers used to conceal drugs, Audiobahn and AlphaSonik, were once popular car audio brands sold in Southern California over 10 years ago, and both were owned by Abo Abdo.
Random Length News can confirm that according to business records filed with the California Secretary of State, Abo Abdo was listed as the director of both businesses. Audiobahn was founded in 1997, but in 2011 had seen its Franchise Trade Board license was suspended, while AlphaSonik was dissolved in 2001, reformed, and then its FTB license was suspended again in 2009. According to electronics industry reporting by This Week In Consumer Electronics at the time, both brands ran into financial trouble in 2007, and were sold off or went out of business by 2008.
Further cementing the international nature of this operation, it was also announced that Canadian authorities were involved. Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Burnaby, British Columbia executed operations on five search warrants that led to the “seizure of a significant quantity of suspected proceeds of crime,” according the AFP.
But for the Aussies, the story starts much smaller. A routine traffic stop in a rural neighborhood in early 2018 led to a local policeman finding a small amount of drugs in the vehicle. That led to an arrest, which led police to a house that contained a large amount of meth cooking material and further arrests, eventually culminating in the international sting that hit our LA ports.
“Kudos to the country copper,” said Tess Walsh, the Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner to Australian media. “We love that about this story. And from little things big things grow.”
As a whole, Australia appears to be in the middle of its own version of the “War on Drugs” and Australian media seems awash in many recent reports of major drug busts so far in 2019. On Jan. 21, two Malaysian Airlines flight attendants as well as six others with connections to China were arrested in a suspected heroin ring, and on Feb. 27 two Chinese nationals were arrested as part of a meth ring that had 1.4 tons of ephedrine.
Australian officials have further alleged that outlaw biker gangs have served as “interlocutors” to drug operations in their country, which led to an unprecedented step of at least one international motorcycle club with a branch in Australia, the Bandidos MC, issuing a public statement.
“The Bandido Motorcycle Club vehemently distance ourselves from this insidious scourge on humanity, in every way, shape, and form” read a statement issued by the group. “We categorically refute any suggestion of involvement whatsoever, in this or any other matter concerning ice.”