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Victorian man wanted over cocaine plot arrested five years after disappearing



A Victorian man wanted over a plot to import nearly 200 kilograms of cocaine into the country has been arrested after disappearing five years ago.

The 46-year-old was arrested at Melbourne Airport late Saturday afternoon when he landed on a flight from Doha.

Police allege he fled the country in 2018 using someone else's passport.

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It's believed that since then he has spent time in Turkey, Greece, and most recently was living in Bulgaria.

The Victorian man disappeared in May 2018 when he was on bail ahead of facing court over drug import offences.

A warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was taken into custody when he voluntarily returned to Australia at the weekend.

The charges were part of a major joint investigation into criminal syndicates allegedly attempting to import cocaine into Australia, called Operation Barada. 

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In January 2017 Operation Barada led to the seizure of 186kg of cocaine and the arrest of 16 men.

Launched in 2017, the operation led to the seizure of 186 kilograms of cocaine and the arrest of 16 men.

Police alleged the drug was brought to Australia on a commercial vessel and was expected to be collected at sea by a Melbourne-based syndicate for distribution across Australia.

The Victorian man faced Melbourne Magistrates Court today for a string of charges including attempting to import cocaine, providing fake or misleading information relating to a travel document, and failing to appear in court.

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Police alleged the cocaine was brought to Australia on a commercial vessel and was expected to be collected at sea by a Melbourne-based syndicate.

The maximum penalty for attempting to import a border controlled drug is life imprisonment.

AFP Detective Superintendent Jason McArthur said the illegal drug trade caused ongoing harm to Australians and diverted "millions of dollars" from the legitimate economy.

"The seizure of the 186kg of cocaine in 2017 prevented those millions of dollars of drug profit from flowing back into a transnational criminal syndicate to fund other illegal ventures."

The man's arrest was a result of the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF).

It comprises members from the AFP, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force (ABF), Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and Department of Home Affairs.

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