A large scale, high-threat heroin network based in New South Wales with distribution points into Queensland and Victoria was shut down in September 2012. The 12-month investigation, codenamed Operation Lightning was lead by the CMC and supported by the Queensland Police Service State Drug Investigation Unit and New South Wales Police Drug Squad.
As a result, 27 people – all believed to be members or associates of Balkan crime groups operating in both states – face drug trafficking charges among other offences.
The following drugs (worth an estimated street value of $3.6 million) and assets were seized:
- 1.82 kilograms of heroin
- 1.8 kilograms of speed (methyl amphetamine)
- Significant quantities of precursor chemicals
- Laboratory equipment.
It is believed that over a 10 year period, the network transported approximately 30 kilograms of heroin (with an estimated street value of $30 million) into Queensland.
Additional evidence sparking two other CCC investigations
Operation Lightning also revealed evidence that a significant organised crime figure had procured another target to produce methylamphetamine and had supplied precursor chemicals and glassware for the purpose, in exchange for 50 % of the product. This evidence led directly to the establishment of Operation Lithium, which focused on the drug activities of this target. (See Operation Lithium.)
Operation Lightning also uncovered an alleged criminal association between a key target and an employee of a Queensland regional council, sparking a parallel and ongoing CMC misconduct investigation. The council employee was charged with drug and property-related offences along with offences relating to misconduct in public office, while the alleged crime target was charged with procuring misconduct in public office.
UPDATE: In early July 2015, high-level target of Operation Lightning, Mark Raymond Jacobs became the final Queensland-based target to pass through the court process. Jacobs received a head sentence of 11.5 years in relation to a series of offences that included drug trafficking, extortion and misconduct in public office. Jacobs was also ordered to pay restitution to a victim of one of the extortion charges.
Since the closure of Operation Lightning in 2012, a number of other targets have been sentenced:
- Ian Schaumberg – 8 years imprisonment
- Jessica Hess – 6 years imprisonment
- Illie Chilnicean – 10 years imprisonment
- Corina Istodorescu – 7 years imprisonment
- George Prelipceanau (NSW) – 9.5 years imprisonment
- Minh Pham (NSW) – 6 years imprisonment.