Police raid nets ecstasy bonanza

By CRAIG McTEAR and AAP

IF convicted, Benjamin Rosenfeld faces an $825,000 fine, or life behind bars, or both.

The 46-year-old Israeli national was arrested at Bellingen on Sunday morning by Australian Federal police, and charged with importing 113kg of MDMA (ecstasy) powder, with an estimated street value of almost $40 million.

It follows an AFP raid at Fuller's Service Station/Fruit Shop on Waterfall Way the same day.

The AFP alleges Rosenfeld imported the powder inside hotwater systems from Israel, and was the 'primary facilitator' of the shipment for an international drug syndicate.

He entered Australia on Monday last week and has been living on Waterfall Way at Bellingen.

He has no family in this country. His only tie here is his relationship with a Bellingen man.

Rosenfeld is charged with one count of importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, and one count of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.

The case was yesterday mentioned briefly in Coffs Harbour Local Court. Rosenfeld's solicitor, Hugo Schleiger, said his client, who was in custody, did not want to come into the courtroom.

Mr Schleiger did not apply for bail, which magistrate Judith Fleming formally refused.

She adjourned the case to Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court on July 3.

A joint Customs-AFP operation began on March 31 when Customs officers at Port Botany targeted a cargo shipment of solar hotwater systems sent from Israel. X-rays showed three of the six cylinders had anomalies.

Customs then found 172 tennis ball cans inside the systems, containing powder, with one sample testing positive for MDMA.

The AFP substituted the package with an inert substance, and monitored its delivery to a warehouse in Artarmon.

On Sunday, AFP agents raided that warehouse, a property in Marrickville, a vehicle in the Sydney CBD, and a house in Melbourne, where they seized $25,000.

AFP Sydney Office manager David Stewart said the Australian operations of an international syndicate had been disrupted, and more arrests could follow.

Mr Stewart said that based on the calculation that ecstasy contained about 25-30 per cent MDMA, the powder could make about 1.2 million pills.

The seizure would have a short-term effect on the availability of ecstasy, he said.

"We don't often see MDMA powder of this scale and magnitude, but certainly it is on the increase as criminal syndicates internationally look at new opportunities in the market," he told reporters in Sydney.

* The managing director of Bellingen-based Chromaglen Solar Mid North Coast, Brian Clarkson, yesterday said the incident had 'no connection, relationship or involvement with myself or my company'.



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