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Friday, 12 February 2010

Alberto Hurtado Osorio, 60, was behind bars in Colombia last night

Alberto Hurtado Osorio, 60, was behind bars in Colombia last night. His arrest came two years after the Australian Federal Police and counterparts in South America and Latin America launched a sting to smash his cartel, which is suspected of smuggling drugs across the world through the post.Osorio, who served two years in Sydney on drug charges in the early 1990s, had been on the AFP's secret "top 10" target list for years.But the Colombian, a senior member of a well-known Bogata-based cartel, had eluded police by constantly moving throughout the South American country and keeping the operation at arm's length.It is alleged the drug cartel was smuggling cocaine to contacts in Australia in comparatively small amounts -- about 300g -- via air mail, certified mail and private parcel companies.Police have no idea how much cocaine the cartel had managed to smuggle into Australia. It was sent from Peru and Argentina in a bid to disguise its Colombian origins.Police began to close in on Osorio late last year after the AFP intercepted three consignments of 300g of cocaine in Sydney. At the same time, Peruvian authorities seized two consignments bound for Australia.
The gang is also suspected of smuggling drugs into other major Western markets worldwide.Peruvian police arrested two men at the same time Osorio was picked up. All three have been charged with trafficking and will face trial in their respective countries.
The investigation into the cartel's Australian connections is continuing.
AFP investigators said yesterday drug-smugglers had returned to using the post after the post-September 11, 2001, security crackdown on ports and airports made it increasingly difficult to smuggler large amounts of drugs.AFP national manager for serious and organised crime Kevin Zuccato said Osorio's arrest was a significant development in Australia's fight against drugs."This guy has been on our radar since 1992," Mr Zuccato said. "Increasingly, smugglers are sending comparatively smaller amounts of drugs through the post and with `swallowers' on planes."It is difficult to know how much drugs this gang got in to Australia. It is not about the quantity of the drugs seized but the quality of the crook we arrest and stop from bringing drugs into this country. He was a very senior member of a significant drug syndicate in Colombia, with suspected links to other syndicates."
Police arrested 25 people in Australia this week for allegedly mailing drugs around the country hidden in different items, including a teddy bear.The AFP said it had seized 145 parcels and 73kg of drugs.The teddy bear was used to hide a new drug called "miaow", which has been likened to ecstasy.

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