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Thursday, Oct 12, 2006
Abuser names unreleased
A major cockfighting racket has been uncovered during raids to smash two syndicates alleged to be at the forefront of heroin and ice trafficking.
More than 500 birds were discovered at a house in the western Melbourne suburb of Rockbank during co-ordinated raids at seven addresses in the city and eight more in Sydney. Nine men were arrested and four vehicles and $300,000 in cash were seized.
But it was the size of the suburban operation feeding the demand for cockfighting birds that surprised animal welfare officials.
"The number of birds involved is certainly the biggest operation ever uncovered in Victoria," RSPCA manager Greg Boland said.
RSPCA staff had no alternative but to "immediately euthanase" several birds that had been badly wounded during cockfights.
Mr Boland said the illegal bloodsport attracted huge amounts of money.
"We have known as much as $500,000 to $1 million to be wagered on one fight," he said. "It also does seem to have links to organised crime."
Two of the nine arrested are expected to face charges in relation to cockfighting. The charges carry penalties of 12 months' jail and/or a fine up to $12,000.
The discovery of the birds was made by some of the 100 state and federal police officers who carried out the raids as part of an operation by Taskforce Gordian, set up by the Australian Crime Commission. Officials from the federal Customs and taxation departments also took part.
Five men from Melbourne and four from Sydney - all believed to be of Vietnamese descent and aged in their 20s and 30s - were arrested.
The raids follow Taskforce Gordian's disruption last week of an alleged syndicate responsible for laundering $93 million through Southeast Asian countries.
The Oct 12 arrests bring to 18 the number of people charged in less than a week. Previous raids have netted more than $1 million in cash and large quantities of ice - or methamphetamine - heroin and cocaine, said to have a street value of $7.5 million.
The taskforce was established in May last year to investigate networks used by organised crime to finance criminal enterprises, launder the proceeds of crime and evade tax.
"It seeks to disrupt these established criminal networks by targeting accountants, money remitters and the financial service providers who assist them to commit criminal offences," said ACC general manager of operations Jim Duffy.
The nine men arrested yesterday are expected to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court today charged with trafficking in a commercial quantity of illicit drugs. If convicted, they face a maximum of 25 years' jail.
Three of the men will also be charged with importing a commercial quantity of heroin, which relates to an alleged importation last year of more than 17kg of the drug.
Federal Minister for Justice and Customs Chris Ellison said yesterday's raids were "another significant development in relation to the fight against organised crime in Australia".
- News.Com.Au - Oct 13, 2006
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