Police have revealed one of the locations Rebels use to sell cocaine
Police have revealed one of the locations Rebels use to sell cocaine

$144m cocaine haul bound for snow party playground

REBELS bikies are behind the importation of $144 million of cocaine hidden in a second-hand excavator that was set to blanket Australia's snowfields.

Police switched the drugs for a harmless substance when X-rays at Port Botany discovered the importation worth nearly $150 million was secreted inside the excavator that had been imported from South Africa.

Police believe the 384kg of cocaine, found packed into 384 tightly bound parcels, were destined for NSW ski resorts as well as well as Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra­.

It is alleged the digger was then delivered to Bungendore Landscape Supplies run by Adam Hunter and his self-employed associate Timothy John Engstrom.

Adam Hunter allegedly took delivery of the second-hand excavator.
Adam Hunter allegedly took delivery of the second-hand excavator.

Both men come from nearby Karabar, a small rural town of less than 10,000 people near Queanbeyan. It is not alleged that Hunter or Engstrom are Rebels members.

Hunter, 33, the owner of the landscape supply business, seemed an unlikely alleged drug dealer on such a large scale.

An NRL fan, he was known for coaching at the Queanbeyan Blues rugby league club and posted regularly about life as a doting dad to young children and helping to organise a fundraiser for the homeless next month.

Both he and Engstrom, 34, appeared in Queanbeyan Local Court on Monday and did not enter a plea. They were remanded in custody until next month.

"It's clear to us that this group thought bringing drugs into our district in this type of machinery would avoid police interest," ACT Policing chief officer Ray Johnson said. "How wrong they were."

The Daily Telegraph understands the Rebels bikie gang, which has a strong presence in Canberra, has been moving into parts of Yass as a distribution point and Monday's seizure was linked to the arrest of four men allegedly caught in possession of 30kg of cocaine last month.

An x-ray of the excavator from South Africa containing 384kg cocaine. Picture: Australian Border Force
An x-ray of the excavator from South Africa containing 384kg cocaine. Picture: Australian Border Force

The same syndicate is also believed to be behind 5kg of heroin which was seized in Canberra around the same time.

Mr Johnson said Monday's large seizure was clearly destined for beyond Canberra, with the Snowy Mountains during ski season a major market.

"We believe there's connections to outlaw motorcycle gangs. I suspect this is not an insignificant hit to the syndicate," he said.

It is not alleged that Hunter or Engstrom are Rebels members.

The drugs had a street value of $144 million. Picture: Australian Boarder Force
The drugs had a street value of $144 million. Picture: Australian Boarder Force

The snow fields have increasingly become a major target for drug dealers, with cashed up skiers from Sydney and across the world converging on the mountains during the winter.

It has become such a concern that last year NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller announced the formation of the Southern Region Enforcement Squad to carry out covert operations into drug supplies in and around the resorts.

Bags are removed from the excavator in the largest drug interception operation co-ordinated by ACT Policing. Picture: Australian Border Force
Bags are removed from the excavator in the largest drug interception operation co-ordinated by ACT Policing. Picture: Australian Border Force

They work alongside regular drug operations carried out by local police.

"This is the largest drug seizure ever co-ordinated by ACT Policing," Mr Johnson said. "This operation began earlier this year when ACT Police received information relating to a crime syndicate operating in southern NSW and the ACT.

"A joint operation commenced and the second hand excavator was identified and intercepted at Port Botany … and subsequently discovered to contain 384kg of cocaine worth about $144 million on the street."

ACT Policing chief officer Ray Johnson at Monday’s press conference.
ACT Policing chief officer Ray Johnson at Monday’s press conference.

Australian Border Force acting deputy commissioner of operations Sharon Huey described the concealment of the packages of cocaine in the arm of the excavator as "incredibly sophisticated".

"To put this into perspective, in the 2017-2018 financial year, approximately 795kg of cocaine was detected at the border," she said. "This concealment of 384kg represents almost half the previous year's total detection of cocaine."

Monaro Police District Commander, Superintendent Paul Condon, said drug supply relied on demand.

"The ultimate goal in organised crime is money; and the greater the demand, the greater potential for profit," he said. "It's not unexpected drug supply networks would try to exploit the snowfields in winter."

The excavator used to hide 384kg of cocaine worth $144 million. Picture: Australian Border Force
The excavator used to hide 384kg of cocaine worth $144 million. Picture: Australian Border Force
The cocaine was set to blanket the NSW snowfields, police allege. Picture: Australian Border Force
The cocaine was set to blanket the NSW snowfields, police allege. Picture: Australian Border Force
Australian Border Force acting deputy commissioner of operations Sharon Huey.
Australian Border Force acting deputy commissioner of operations Sharon Huey.