Three men, including an alleged Russian organised crime member, have been charged after more than 40 firearms, explosive devices and about $1 million in cash were seized across Melbourne.
The arrests were part of an ongoing Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce investigation which involved the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Border Force (ABF) and Victoria Police.
“Over the past two days, police have worked tirelessly to uncover a significant cache of weapons that could have brought immense harm to the Victorian community,” Victoria Police Detective Superintendent David Cowan said.
“It is not often we see a seizure of this size within a single investigation, let alone coupled with the amount of explosives, drugs and cash we have uncovered.”
The ABF said it played a key role in the investigation after its team found a counterfeit Dutch passport in a package addressed to a business in Burwood, in the state’s south-east.
“Our border is one of our most critical strategic national assets and criminals should know that the ABF will continue to detect, disrupt and dismantle crime syndicates side-by-side with our law enforcement partners,” Superintendent Regional Investigations Steve Orme said.
It alerted the Taskforce and police carried out a controlled delivery of the package earlier this month, where a person working for the business allegedly accepted it.
Police said later that same day, a 46-year-old man collected the package from the business and delivered it to the alleged Russian organised crime member.
The 46-year-old was arrested at his North Fitzroy home where police seized three unlawful firearms, a small amount of cocaine and methamphetamine, and three mobile phones.
A 49-year-old man was identified in the passport photo, who police believe was “planning to use the document to depart Australia undetected and avoid facing court”.
He was arrested by the AFP in Port Melbourne on Wednesday.
Police searched the man and allegedly found an envelope containing a large amount of cash and a camera which had images of firearms and a grenade.
Police say a mobile phone was also found on the man, which is in breach of his bail conditions.
Gold bullion coins, five USBs, mobile phones and about $400,000 in Australian and US currency was seized at the man’s Albert Park home, in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, when a subsequent search was carried out.
‘Sophisticated’ explosive devices uncovered
Victoria police also attended a property at Tyabb, in Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula, believed to be linked to the group.
The Bomb Response Unit and the Arson and Explosives Squad were called in after six storage cases that contained ‘sophisticated’ explosive devices were uncovered when police excavated the area.
Firearms, ammunition and what’s believed to be drugs were also seized.
Another location in Humevale, 39 kilometres north-east of Melbourne’s CBD, was excavated where additional storage cases and a length of PVC pipe were found, all containing firearms and ammunition.
A third man, 64, was arrested in Melbourne’s CBD before a search was executed at his Brighton home where about $600,000 in cash was seized.
A laptop, more mobile phones and suspected drugs were seized from another home in Albert Park.
The men faced the Melbourne Magistrates court on Thursday charged with firearms and proceeds of crime offences.
The 64-year-old was granted bail while the other two men were remanded in custody.
AFP Detective Acting Superintendent David MacGregor said the nature of the offending was concerning.
“Criminals may use firearms and other weapons to intimidate others or commit violence,” he said.
“But even when they are targeting each other, innocent bystanders — including their own families — risk being harmed or killed.”
He said investigations into organised criminal group links were ongoing.