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Over the past two years, police have arrested 30 key players in Sydney's drug market. Along with $155 million in illicit drugs, detectives have also seized almost $2.3 million in assets
They had been running small businesses - barber shops, service stations, cafes and the like - across Sydney with modest success, yet were living luxurious lifestyles with multimillion-dollar homes, flashy cars and racing boats.
But, over the past two years, police have arrested 30 players in Sydney's drug market, picking them off almost one by one, in one of the longest and most successful crackdowns on organised crime in the city.
It has revealed a series of unlikely bedfellows working together in Sydney's organised crime networks, allegedly to import and distribute all sorts of drugs; from opium and heroin from Iran, to MDA and ice from parts of Asia, and cocaine from South America.
These discreet businessmen were allegedly working with members of established bikie gangs.
There is evidence of Middle Eastern crime figures allegedly doing deals with a senior member of the Bra Boys.
Senior police sources say some of those arrested in the two-year operation named Strike Force Taipan, which concluded with the final two arrests at the side of the road at Flemington early on Thursday, have been in their sights for decades.
Some of those arrested were well established in Sydney's underworld and, until now, untouched.
“The investigators involved in Strike Force Taipan have been relentless in their pursuit of some of the most serious and well organised criminals in NSW,” Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas said.
The first arrests occurred in February 2012 when Iranian-born Australian Mohammad Dashti, 43, walked into a storage unit on Sydney's north shore that housed several pallets of fruit juice boxes.
Waiting police were more interested in the fact the juice containers hid 47.5 kilograms of "black tar" heroin, as well as almost 2.2 kilograms of brown heroin and 25.5 kilograms of ice - together worth more than $26 million on the streets.
The arrest of Dashti and his colleague Abbas Bayatpour, who have now both pleaded guilty in court to large-scale drug importation, led police to a network that crossed traditional criminal and ethnic boundaries.
Along with the Iranians, Italians, Chinese and Greeks were arrested. Among the 30 are associates of the Hells Angels and the Rebels.
Commander of the Organised Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook said the connections were often formed through social networks.
"The largest and most influential organised criminals are no longer working in silos along geographic or ethnic lines, rather they are working across numerous markets with an expansive and multi-faceted network of criminal contacts," Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, said,
“The investigation by Strike Force Taipan, which has resulted in the arrests of people from a whole range of different backgrounds, reaffirms that point."
Many of the 30 were operating what appeared to be legimiate businesses in surburbs across Sydney, allegedly using their existing company structures as a front to carry out deals with each other and to launder the drug money or send it overseas.
Detective Superintendent Cook said police would be looking at the accountants and lawyers who might have assisted these alleged criminals in hiding their illegal businesses, their cash and their assets.
Detective Superintendent Cook said many of those arrested were not the "usual criminal types". They lived in well-to-do areas, sent their children to top schools and were well dressed.
They weren't the ones engaging in the petty low-level gun violence that has occurred through much of Sydney's west and south-west in the past two years, he said.
Along with $155 million in illicit drugs, detectives from Strike Force Taipan have also sezied almost $2.3 million in assets - including an $800,000 high-performance speedboat from Northmead in Sydney's north-west.
While the investigation began more than two years ago, 16 of the arrests have occured since March 1, since the establishment of the Organised Crime Squad.