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Australia Recently married couple and IT worker arrested over $1 billion drug haul

21:41  05 december  2019
21:41  05 december  2019 Source:   theage.com.au

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A recently married Melbourne couple who ran a customs importing business have been implicated in the nation's largest methamphetamine haul, with an IT worker also charged over the $1 billion seizure.

Newlyweds Rachel Annette Cachia and Donovan Mark Rodrigues, both 37, have been described by Australian Federal Police as "trusted insiders" in the customs industry who advised clients on the logistics of importing and exporting goods through their independent business.

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But the couple could face life imprisonment if convicted over the seizure of 1.6 tonnes of ice and heroin found hidden inside speakers shipped to Melbourne in April.

a man and a woman posing for a photo: Alleged drug traffickers Rachel Annette Cachia and Donovan Mark Rodrigues. © Facebook Alleged drug traffickers Rachel Annette Cachia and Donovan Mark Rodrigues. On social media, the couple posted photos of lavish overseas holidays with their two young children, as well as luxury sports cars.

Bayside IT worker Stephen Mizzi, 38, was also charged after federal police raided properties in the Melbourne suburbs of Darley, Sunshine West, Brooklyn, Elwood and Murrumbeena.

All three face numerous charges of importing illicit drugs.

A a man smiling for the camera: Alleged drug trafficker and IT worker Stephen Mizzi, 38. © Supplied Alleged drug trafficker and IT worker Stephen Mizzi, 38. ustralian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan alleged the couple were "middle to high up" in the drug operation.

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"We feel to a certain extent that they’ve been used," he said.

"They [allegedly] used their positions of trust to circumvent the border control. It will be alleged that two of the three suspects charged are trusted industry insiders."

a person walking down a street next to a car: One of the three people arrested being taken in AFP headquarters this week. © AFP One of the three people arrested being taken in AFP headquarters this week. In April, Australian Border Force officers discovered the drugs after they asked for sea cargo shipped from Bangkok, Thailand, to be inspected at a container examination facility.

After an X-ray, officers spotted "anomalies" inside the speakers and took them apart.

They found dozens of packages containing methamphetamine and heroin, which had been vacuum-packed and stuffed inside the stereo units.

Court documents reveal that Mr Rodrigues and Ms Cachia, both customs brokers from Darley, allegedly began dealing with proceeds of crime in December 2016.

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Then, between June 2017 and July this year, they allegedly began arranging the movement of goods without authorisation through ports on numerous occasions at West Melbourne and Brooklyn.

I a plastic bag on a table: The haul is believed to be worth more than $1 billion. © Australian Federal Police The haul is believed to be worth more than $1 billion. n December 2018, it’s alleged that Mr Mizzi joined the drug operation and the plan to help ship heroin and ice to Australia.

Mr Mizzi has also been charged with dishonestly obtaining identification information from a mobile phone in April this year.

Police released footage showing the three people being ushered one-by-one into federal police headquarters in Melbourne for questioning on Wednesday.

The trio faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, where lawyers said it was the first time in custody for both men and that Mr Mizzi had a "blood pressure issue".

Lawyer Liliana Dubroja, representing Ms Cachia, asked that a nurse assess her client due to kidney and mental health concerns.

Commonwealth prosecutor Jamey Ellis said police required extra time to compile their brief of evidence due to the number of phone taps that needed to be collated.

"There is a significant amount of listening device and telephone material," he said.

The trio was remanded in custody to face court again on May 7. They did not apply for bail.

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