Six men have appeared in crown court charged in relation to the seizure of 450kg of MDMA hidden in an excavator that was shipped to Australia.

ExcavatorThe men were all charged with conspiring to export Class A drugs after a joint investigation between the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

On 15 March last year officers at the Port of Brisbane discovered the drugs hidden in a specially adapted boom of the excavator.

It had been lined with lead to mask 226 packages of MDMA concealed inside.

After being emptied of the illegal load, the excavator was delivered to its intended recipient in Sydney.

NCA investigators analysing encrypted messages obtained as part of Operation Venetic – the UK investigation into the EncroChat network – uncovered an alleged criminal conspiracy by a London-based crime group to export drugs in heavy plant machinery to Australia.

EncroChat messages sent between January and June 2020 detailed plans to purchase the excavator in the UK, hand-drawn illustrations of the concealment within the boom, costs relating to the importation and confirmation that it had been loaded onto a Vessel in Southampton on 24 January and arrived in Brisbane seven weeks later.

Yesterday (Tuesday) six men appeared at Kingston Crown Court. They were remanded to appear again on 16 April for a pre-trial hearing.

The defendants are: Danny Brown, 53, of Kings Hall Road, Bromley, Kent; Stefan Baldauf, 61, of Midhurst Road, Ealing, London; Peter Murray, 57, of Trafalgar Road, Greenwich, London; William Sartin, 59, of Timberlong Lane, Basildon, Essex; Piotr Malinowski, 37, of De’Arn Gardens, Mitcham, London, and Tony Borg, 42, of Southwark Path, Basildon, Essex.

Two men aged 33 and 42 were also charged in Australia.

7 April 2021