Lavish life of alleged meth dealers
A Melbourne couple is facing life in jail over allegedly trying to smuggle $1 billion worth of meth into Australia but before their arrest yesterday, newlyweds Donovan Rodrigues and Rachel Cachia were living the high life.
Mr Rodrigues, 38, and Ms Cachia, 37, were charged over their alleged role in the drug smuggling ring yesterday after police busted the couple allegedly trying to sneak close to 1.6 tonnes of ice into Australia - concealed in stereo speakers coming from Bangkok, Thailand.
IT worker Stephen Francis Mizzi, 37, from Elwood in Melbourne, was also charged.
In a statement yesterday, Australian Federal Police confirmed the bust was the largest onshore seizure ever in Australia.
Mr Rodrigues and Ms Cachia, both customs brokers from Darley, were arrested earlier this week as police executed sweeping raids across Melbourne.
In a press conference yesterday, AFP Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said police believed the Melbourne couple had been used as part of a Chinese drug syndicate.
"We feel they (Ms Cachia, Mr Rodrigues and Mr Mizzi) have been used by an organised crime syndicate, which has cultivated them to engage in the illicit activity they have undertaken," Mr Gaughan said.
"They used their position of trust to circumvent the border controls that exist within Australia.
"We know the people involved were probably middle to high-end of the echelon in the organised crime groups.
"There are people above them, we think we know who they are, we will keep working to try to bring them to justice."
In the months before they were charged, the Melbourne couple flaunted their lavish lifestyle on social media.
The couple were married in March after more than six years together, posting pictures of their luxurious wedding to Facebook.
In February last year, for Valentine's Day, Ms Cachia posted a picture of herself with a $70,000 Jaguar XF.
"Speechless! Happy Valentines Day to me … thanks babe #hisakeeper #lovehim #jaguar," she captioned the picture.
In the comments, the couple joked about getting engaged.
"Spoilt," Mr Rodrigues wrote.
"Spoilt is having a diamond ring in the glove box … just saying," Ms Cachia replied.
"Rachel = never satisfied," he joked back.
"Nooo very satisfied babe, thank you," she said.
Mr Rodrigues' social media is full of pictures of luxury cars with the 38-year-old also posting about selling a handful of his company's cars earlier this year.
The couple also regularly posted pictures of themselves on trips around Australia and internationally, most recently celebrating New Year's Eve at Fraser Island.
The AFP described the couple as "trusted insiders" in the customs industry and accused them of using that to their advantage.
The drugs seized, which also included 37kgs of heroin - worth $18.5 million, were equal to almost 16 million drug deals.
The trio faced Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday where they were refused bail. They will next face court in May next year.
Police yesterday raided properties around Melbourne including homes in Darley, Sunshine West, Brooklyn, Elwood and Murrumbeena.
ABF officers detected the huge haul in vacuum-sealed packages concealed within the speakers during a sea cargo inspection at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility in April 2019.
In a statement, AFP Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan praised the hard work of officers in the AFP and the ABF for their lengthy investigation.
"Australian law enforcement agencies are committed to combating the hold organised crime has on Australia to keep dangerous drugs off our streets and out of our homes," he said.
"It will be alleged that two of the three suspects charged are trusted industry insiders, and that this joint operation has identified and removed serious vulnerabilities from the Melbourne waterfront - and we could not have done this without the support and assistance of the public.
"In addition, under Taskforce Storm joint arrangements, the AFP has shared intelligence with Thai authorities on this matter in accordance with relevant guidelines, resulting in them conducting their own investigation, which is currently ongoing."
Mr Gaughan said the bust should serve as a warning to people trying to import illicit drugs.
"Australia is a lucrative market for drug traffickers only due to the amount of drugs consumed by the public and the price paid for those drugs. This is a social problem that is the responsibility of everyone to address," he said.
"Police will continue to protect our communities and borders against exploitation by sophisticated criminal networks, but it is the responsibility of everyone to educate and support each other to stop the high use of drugs we see in Australian society."
ABF Assistant Commissioner Enforcement Command Sharon Huey said ABF officers were keeping up with drug dealers' creativity.
"Our officers are constantly alert to attempts to conceal illicit substances, no matter how creative criminal syndicates are in trying to hide them," she said.
"In this case officers using X-ray technology detected anomalies inside the speakers, with the subsequent deconstruction of one allegedly revealing a number of vacuum sealed packages inside."