A man who gambled A$100 million (US$77 million) in a week on slots at the Star Casino in Sydney was part of a gang that planned to import cocaine worth A$900 million (US$690 million) into Australia, New South Wales Police say.
Mende Rajkoski, 42, of Sydney, was one of three men arrested Thursday in relation to the alleged plot. He was observed laundering the money through Star’s gaming machines early last year, prompting authorities to covertly examine his finances.
This led them to uncover the alleged conspiracy to smuggle three tons of cocaine from South America, which, in turn, led to the largest intercept ever of the drug bound for Australia.
Last October, acting on information from Australian authorities, the US Navy seized 870 kilos of cocaine from two speedboats off the coast of Colombia, NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said.
Then, in April, the US Coast Guard intercepted a further 900 kilos on a boat traveling off the coast of Ecuador.
Arrested in Sting Operation
Using a photograph taken during the April raid, NSW police constructed a replica of the haul, which was taken to a storage facility to be used in a sting operation.
Rajkoski was arrested when he turned up to collect what he thought was millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine. His accomplices, Nikolao Misa, 37 and Gjelosh Nikollaj, 58, both also of Sydney, were arrested shortly afterwards.
Misa is the director of a company called Shield Venue Security. Nikolajj was out on parole after serving a 2006 sentence for narcotics smuggling.
Both Rajkoski and Misa previously worked at the cargo supply area of Sydney Airport. Police allege the pair were involved in additional narcotics smuggling operations during this time.
“Prior to the arrest yesterday, this syndicate were in the throes of breaking the 900 kilograms of replaced drug into the streets of Sydney and it would have achieved that quickly,” Smith said.
“The farmers in Colombia get about two bucks a day. The cartels are making $3.80 a gram and, by the time it’s gone through an international syndicate’s hands and hits the streets of Sydney, it’s worth $400 a gram.”
Financial crime in Australian casinos has come into hard focus recently. Star’s competitor, Crown Resorts, lost its Sydney license after it was adjudged to have facilitated money laundering by criminal gangs. This included those with links to notorious triad drugs cartel, “the Company.”
Also known as Sam Gor, the Company is believed to be behind up to 70 percent of all illegal drugs trafficked into Australia over the past 20 years.
In this case, it appears that illicit activity on the casino floor was detected quickly and reported to authorities.
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