The price of a kilogram of cocaine hit record highs of over US$450,000/kg for dealers during this drought. A report shocked AFP that a kilo of cocaine was worth $600,000.
“These syndicates intentionally instructed their vendors to take advantage of high prices in Australia,” Schofield said.
“These are global, global syndicates. They have the money to fund real, real warfare.”
The world’s biggest players, from the feared Italian ‘Ndragheta to Mexico’s Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels, have offices in Australia working with domestic distributors.
Schofield said the trade is happening 24/7, usually through encrypted apps, often involving members of illegal motorcycle gangs relocated to safe havens.
The flood was intercepted at the border and AFP seized 5.1 tonnes of cocaine in Australia in the last six months of 2022.
Another 1.5 tonnes of cocaine bound for Australia was also seized offshore at the same time by syndicates so desperate to sell in Australia that they shipped the drug before they could even find a buyer.
The total transport for the year, 8.9 tons, is a record for the last five years.
Schofield and other agents were photographed in Manly in 1994 removing black duffel bags containing 95 kilograms of cocaine from the trunk of an old Mercedes. The agents hold a burlap bag labeled “PRODUCT OF COLOMBIA.”
It was a simpler time in Australia’s underworld, when bike riders traded weed and speed, Golden Triangle gangs sold heroin and only Colombians with cocaine taped to their bodies dared cross the border.
Schofield said the transition between the groups at home and abroad is profitable but creates tension if money or product is lost or confiscated.
As a result, Sydney has witnessed increasingly bloody and public reckoning, she added. Cocaine boss Alen Moradian was executed by unidentified gunmen in the underground car park of his bachelor flat in Bondi Junction in late June.
Moradian has been associated with numerous criminal groups, including the Comanchero OMCG and The Commission, a “consortium” of criminals bent on controlling the price and distribution of cocaine in Sydney.
The Commission appears to be a purely domestic operation, using threats and violence to set and maintain the top price Australians pay for cocaine.
Moradian’s killers remain on the run and the motive for his murder is not yet known, but it is one of many public drug-related shootings in Sydney in recent months.
“Public violence is the next level,” Schofield said. “I don’t know if the community has been desensitized by what we’re seeing in other countries, but it’s really scary that it’s being imported along with the medicines.”
Two suspected plans to import 460kg and 850kg of Colombian cocaine were discovered in Western Australia last week. AFP investigated whether a syndicate had flown out distributors for the job.
Schofield recently toured cocaine labs in Colombia, a country where 120 police officers are missing and where drug terrorism is the norm.
She was driven through Mexico under the protection of officers who scoured the streets with large-calibre machine guns on their submarines.
Internally, police are frustrated by the glamorous reputation cocaine enjoys. “There is no such thing as Woke-Cola,” they say when syndicates dump chemicals in the Amazon or when tourists are kidnapped and killed in Mexico.
Schofield personally rejects the notion that it’s okay for drug dealers to shoot each other because stray bullets aren’t discriminatory.
In Sydney in early 2021, a nurse was injured when a bullet struck Auburn Hospital. Later that year, children ran to safety when a bullet hit the wall of their daycare. Both were stray bullets from gang attacks.
“These people are making so much money that they’re moving to the affluent suburbs — an import will get you an unmortgaged house in the eastern suburbs,” says Schofield. “It’s someone else’s problem until it’s gone.”
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Login here.