Drug syndicate 'used drones to monitor police'

Cash and cocaine seized by police Image copyright AFP
Image caption Australian police seized cocaine and A$580,000 in cash

An international drug syndicate used drones to run counter-surveillance on police in a failed bid to import 78 blocks of cocaine into Australia, authorities say.

The drugs, with a street value of A$30m (£18m; $23m), were seized from three duffel bags inside a shipping container on a vessel that arrived in Melbourne from Panama, according to police.

Four Australians, two Canadians and a Briton were arrested.

Police also seized A$580,000 in cash.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner John Beveridge said the operation demonstrated that alleged drug syndicates were becoming more sophisticated.

"They used aerial drones to run counter-surveillance on investigators while conducting their meetings," he said on Friday.

He praised the efforts of investigators for avoiding detection by the aerial surveillance.

Each bag seized from the cargo vessel Spirit of Shanghai, which arrived in Melbourne on Monday, allegedly contained 26 blocks of cocaine weighing a total of 92kg (200lb).

The money was seized when police conducted raids around Melbourne on Thursday.

The seven men arrested, all aged between 21 and 33, have been charged with drug importation-related offences.

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