CANBERRA, Australia — An international law enforcement operation against organized criminal activity has resulted in mass arrests and struck what the Australian prime minister describes as a “heavy blow” against crime gangs.

More than 100 organized crime members have been arrested in Australia as part of the operation, initiated after the United States’ FBI decrypted “Anom,” an online communications platform used by gang figures.

The communications found on the platform included 21 murder plots, gun distribution, and mass drug trafficking, federal police say.

The operation is three years in the making.

Australian Federal Police claimed on June 8 that it had seized 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons, and almost AU$45 million ($34.8 million) in cash as part of the operation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian Federal Police operation, known as Operation Ironside, had struck a “heavy blow” against criminals. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image)

Offenders are linked to the Australian-based Italian mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs), Asian crime syndicates, and Albanian organized crime figures.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian Federal Police’s operation, known as Operation Ironside, had struck a “heavy blow” against criminals.

“The operation puts Australia at the forefront of the fight against criminals who peddle in human misery, and ultimately, it will keep our communities and Australians safe,” he said on June 8.

“Illicit drug use ruins lives and fuels organized crime.”

More than 4,000 members from the Australian Federal Police and state and territory police have been involved in the execution of hundreds of warrants since June 7, 2021, under Operation Ironside, which covertly began three years ago.

Operation Ironside has led to the arrest of 224 offenders on 526 charges in every mainland Australian state.

A total of 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons, AU$44,934,457 ($34,758,793) in cash, and assets expected to run into the millions of dollars, have been seized under Operation Ironside since 2018.

The Australian Federal Police also acted on 20 threats to kill, potentially saving the lives of a significant number of innocent bystanders, with intelligence referred to state police agencies that took immediate action.

More arrests are expected domestically and offshore under a coordinated global response connected to Operation Ironside.

The Australian Federal Police is also likely to seek extradition requests of a number of persons of interest living overseas. It comes as there have been tonnes of drugs and hundreds of arrests overseas.

New Zealand authorities have also arrested 35 people for alleged drug dealing and money laundering, seizing some $NZ 3.7 million (AU$3.4 million) (US$2.6 million) in assets.

Operation Ironside South has charged individuals in Victoria who law enforcement alleges are linked to Australian-based mafia, Middle Eastern Organized Crime figures, outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs), and transnational serious organized criminals.

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra)

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