Three UK nationals have been charged for their suspected involvement in smuggling 24 kilograms of crystal meth worth almost £16 million into Australia last year.
Yvonne Stewart, 52, from Croydon, Kevin Filkins, 52, from Sevenoaks and Robert Hamilton, 51, from Orpington were arrested yesterday morning (13 April) by officers from the Organised Crime Partnership, a joint team of National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police officers.
Stewart, who works in the cargo sector, is accused of accepting a shipment filled with methamphetamine and failing to properly inspect it before it was marked as security cleared and sent to Australia. She is also alleged to have tracked the shipment as it travelled through the system.
Filkins is believed to have travelled to the shipping centre in Croydon on 26 June 2021 and paid for the shipment to be sent to Australia. Hamilton is alleged to have arranged the contact between Filkins and Stewart to organise the shipment.
Upon arrival in Australia in July 2021, Australian Border Force (ABF) officers selected the consignment for examination. It revealed 24 plastic bags, each containing one kilo of a crystalline substance. Subsequent testing confirmed this to be methamphetamine.
The ABF referred the consignment to the Australian Federal Police for further investigation. Their inquiries – which focused on an Australia-based organised crime syndicate alleged to be behind multiple importations of illicit drugs – led to the identification of the subjects.
The three individuals were charged with being concerned in the exportation of Class A drugs last night. They will appear at Croydon Magistrates Court today. Hamilton was also charged with possession with intent to supply a Class B drug and production of a Class B drug after a number of cannabis plants were found at his address.
Detective Inspector Guy Carmichael, of the Organised Crime Partnership, said:
“These drugs would be worth a significant amount in the UK, some £4 million, but their value in Australia would have been remarkably higher at £16 million, or just shy of $28 million Australian dollars.
“Working closely with partners in Australia, including the Australian Federal Police, means a large quantity of these dangerous drugs taken off the streets and a suspected key supply chain taken out of action.
“We will continue to target those who are supplying illegal drugs, whether within the UK or overseas.”
AFP Detective Acting Inspector Brendon Basford said:
“AFP investigators identified a person of interest in the UK tracking a shipment in a manner that we believed was suspicious, and passed on the information we had to the National Crime Agency via the AFP’s international liaison network.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to know that our partners have taken the initial information we provided and built a brief of evidence on criminal offences in the United Kingdom, having a tangible impact on the alleged suppliers to the enterprise seeking to exploit the Australian community.”
ABF Commander Susan Drennan said:
“This is a great example of the reach of our professional law enforcement relationships worldwide. Our tough action against criminals attempting to endanger the lives of those in our community does not stop at our borders.”