Their plot was foiled after Stefan Baldauf inadvertently sent a photograph of his French Bulldog, named Bob, to other gang members.
The gang used encrypted messaging EncroChat phones to send messages, which would have obscured their identities, but law enforcement officials who were monitoring the messages were able to identify the men when they noticed the phone number that Baldauf was using was also present on Bob’s collar tag.
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Authorities were then able to prove that the phone belonged to Baldauf when he sent a separate photograph of his location to Danny Brown, another of the plot’s accomplices, but his reflection was accidentally captured in the photograph.
It led to the identification of the wider gang, with Baldauf being sentenced to 28 years in prison, and the other members receiving between 15-year and 26-year sentences.
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Once it reached Australia however, customs authorities discovered the drugs and removed them, before sending the excavator on. The gang realised that the drugs had been seized when they could not locate the MDMA.
Specialist Prosecutor for the CPS, Colette Moore said: “This case involved a colossal quantity of MDMA, with an estimated street value of £44 million, which posed a huge risk to the health and well-being of the Australian public.
“Excellent work from the Australian authorities identified the drug concealment in the mechanical arm of an excavator arm and prevented its onward distribution. Collaborative international working with our Australian partners has resulted in the successful prosecution of the men who had exported these drugs to the Antipodes.”
Isaac Muk is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter