Two men extradited to Sydney over alleged $150 million drug plot

Two men accused of helping import almost three tonnes of illegal drugs into Australia have been extradited from Dubai to Sydney,completing an eight-year investigation into an international crime syndicate.

The investigation ended when Benjamin Neil Pitt,38,and Matthew John Battah,36,were transferred from a Dubai jail to Sydney airport under the watchful gaze of NSW Police on Wednesday night.

One of the two men,aged 36 and 38,charged over their alleged involvement in importing 2.8 tonnes of ice.

One of the two men,aged 36 and 38,charged over their alleged involvement in importing 2.8 tonnes of ice.NSW Police

The men landed in Sydney about 10.30pm on Wednesday and were charged over their alleged involvement in importing 2.8 tonnes of ice,with an estimated street value of $150 million,on multiple occasions between 2013 and 2014.

They are facing three counts of conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug,conspiracy to traffic a commercial quantity of a controlled drug,and conspiracy to deal in proceeds of crime.

In December 2013,detectives from the organised crime squad established Strike Force Millstream to investigate the large-scale supply of prohibited drugs in NSW,which police allege had links to the Lone Wolf outlaw motorcycle gang.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said investigations led police to Mr Pitt and Mr Battah in 2015,who were living an “opulent life” in Dubai until Australian authorities caught up with the pair.

Police will address the media following the extradition of two men from Dubai,marking the resolution of an eight-year investigation into the activities of a transnational criminal syndicate.

Police will address the media following the extradition of two men from Dubai,marking the resolution of an eight-year investigation into the activities of a transnational criminal syndicate.Police Media

“These guys are at the top of the food chain,they were involved in the syndicate components controlling the imports from Africa and Europe. They are key players,” he said.

Police say 28 people have since been arrested and charged for their roles,while the two men were apprehended in Dubai,United Arab Emirates,in June last year. Since then,NSW Police has been working with international law enforcement and Commonwealth agencies to seek the extradition of the pair.

The maximum penalty for the drug-related offences is life imprisonment,while the money laundering offence carries a maximum penalty of 25 years imprisonment.

The men’s matters were heard at Central Local Court on Thursday where they did not apply for bail and it was formally refused. The matters were adjourned to November 17.

Police allege they foiled an attempted jailbreak by the two men last year,when they became aware of a significant amount of money being offered to help carry out the plan via the secretly FBI-controlled An0m network. Following the incident,the two men were locked down in maximum security until they were extradited.

Assistant Commissioner Smith praised the efforts of Dubai police for helping bring the men to Australia and dismantling the network.

“The message to those involved in transnational organised crime is now very clear;you cannot flee Australia for a life of opulence in the UAE as we will come for you and hold you accountable for the crimes committed on our shores,” he said.

He added that more than 90 officers had been involved in the investigation including five detectives who went to Dubai to carry out the extradition.

Police Minister David Elliott said Dubai police had worked closely with Australian investigators to allow the men to be brought to Australia.

“The message to criminals could not be clearer – you cannot hide and will be brought to account for any criminal enterprise,” he said. “You cannot just assume that you will be able to escape to another country where NSW Police won’t be able to track you down.”

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Laura Chung is an environment reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Daniella White is a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Jenny Noyes is a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald.

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