A major operation targeting a trans-national organised crime network has resulted in the arrests of 28 people as police say one of the largest crime syndicates in Australia has been dismantled.
The year-long investigation involving state police, the NSW Crime Commission and the Australian Border Force targeted a syndicate hailing from Lebanon that operated across Australia.
It has been linked to $1.5 billion in cryptocurrency transactions while committing various firearm, drug, tobacco and money-laundering offences.
The operation swung into force on Sunday when a 40-year-old man was arrested at Sydney Airport while attempting to leave the country.
Police allege he is one of the ringleaders and charged him with nine offences including directing the activities of a criminal group, supplying prohibited drugs and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Two other men were arrested on suspicion of being facilitators of the crime syndicate and charged with similar drug and criminal activity offences.
All three were refused bail to appear in local courts across Sydney during the week.
Following the execution of 43 search warrants, police on Wednesday said another 25 people were arrested and charged after operations across metropolitan Sydney.
Two tonnes of prohibited drugs, with a street value of over $130 million, were seized along with 60 encrypted devices and 25 firearms.
A Lamborghini sports car, $1.5 million in cash, $2 million in cryptocurrency and $3 million of jewellery were also confiscated.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson said the criminal organisation had been "significantly disrupted if not eliminated" after the busts.
He described the gang as "the biggest criminal network or enterprise in Australia".
"We will allege that much of the criminal activity has been conducted and orchestrated from overseas," Mr Hudson said.
"We will allege this international network had tentacles far-reaching into all levels of organised crime here in NSW and is believed to have controlled the illicit drug trade through price determining and fixing."
Organised Crime Squad commander Peter Faux said police investigations indicated the syndicate was involved in large-scale drug trafficking and supply, firearms distribution and violent crimes.
He said the gang was responsible for the "industrial-scale movement" of money around the world via cryptocurrency.
About 450 police took part in the 12-month investigation that involved Australian Federal Police, with more arrests expected.
Police would not confirm if the operation was linked to the reported arrest of Bilal Haoucher, a well-known underworld figure, in Lebanon overnight.
Australian Associated Press