SYDNEY (AFP) — A top Australian police investigator has been arrested over an alleged plan to make a massive batch of the powerful drug ice for a global crime syndicate, police said Tuesday.
Mark Standen, the assistant director of the powerful New South Wales Crime Commission, was picked up at his desk at his Sydney office Monday following a two-year international operation to shut down the drugs ring.
New South Wales Crime Commissioner Phillip Bradley said a number of cases which Standen, known to have a gambling problem, worked on would be reviewed, but he was not aware of any investigations being compromised.
"It's very damaging, there's no doubt about that," he told reporters.
But he insisted: "This is an isolated incident."
Australian Federal Police said Standen, a 30-year veteran of the force, was one of two men arrested in Sydney following the dismantling of an international drug ring which stretched from Sydney to Europe.
He faces life in jail as a result of the three charges against him, which include conspiracy to import 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) of the precursor chemical pseudoephedrine, an amount with the potential to produce more than 120 million dollars (114 million US) worth of methamphetamine, or ice.
He is also charged with conspiracy to supply a large commercial quantity of an illegal drug and conspiracy to defeat justice.
Standen and his fellow accused Bakhos Jalalaty were remanded in custody by a Sydney court Tuesday.
Police allege Standen used his position with the highly secretive crime commission to tip off the international syndicate on how to evade detection and told them of drug law enforcement activities.
News of Standen's arrest sent shockwaves through the police community, in which he was a well-known figure privy to highly sensitive and secret material on the Australian underworld and the illegal drug trade.
"It's just unimaginable," one of his colleagues told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It's a pretty frightening development."
The arrest has also raised questions about the special powers of the crime commission, which include the right to compel witnesses to testify and the ability to conduct covert surveillance operations.
"The New South Wales Crime Commission is a very powerful body with draconian powers that is next to unaccountable," Criminal Defence Lawyers' Association president Phillip Boulten told ABC radio.
The Sydney arrests follow those of 12 people in The Netherlands last week, and that of an alleged key figure in the drug ring in the Thai capital Bangkok on Saturday.
Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Tony Negus said the investigation, which involved more than 250 police from the Netherlands, Pakistan, Thailand and Australia, was unprecedented.
"This has been a highly intricate and complex investigation which has had to be covertly undertaken because of the parties allegedly involved," he said.
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