Items seized by police during major drug operation Operation Papa Jersey.
Items seized by police during major drug operation Operation Papa Jersey. Queensland Police

REVEALED: How police dismantled Mackay ice syndicate web

EXCLUSIVE: Ice is making its way into the Mackay region via Brisbane after it is smuggled by the kilogram through international airports and sold at a "crazy mark-up".

Speaking with The Daily Mercury in the wake of three massive drug operations in the Mackay region over three years, Acting Detective Inspector Sean Edwards, of the Drug and Serious Crime Group, described "old school" drug labs as increasingly rare.

Methamphetamines sourced from locations such as "Taiwan and China" are being sold for a huge profit in Brisbane, before the price is again jacked up in Mackay and other regional areas where demand remains strong.

"The ice isn't actually cooked locally. That's more what's termed old school amphetamines, which traditionally OMCGs (outlaw motorcycle gangs) made," Act Det Insp Edwards said.

"It's organised. We're certainly investigating organised crime syndicates. We're talking about criminal networks ... it's state-wide.

"A kilo of ice, they say, in China or Taiwan is $3000. But on the street here in Australia it's $120,000-$140,000 - crazy mark-up. And also, an ounce of ice might go for $4500 in Brisbane and $7500-8000 up here. There's even a mark-up coming from Brisbane."

Dressed in plain clothes at the conclusion of Operation Papa Jersey, Act Det Insp Edwards leans forward in his chair in a sparse interview room at Mackay police station to discuss how dozens of Queensland police officers had put their heads together to tackle the "ice epidemic" in the region.

With clear links to property crime and other nefarious undertakings, the widespread impact of the drug has also been clear in local courts in recent times.

Asked if the recent breakthrough would be more than just a drop in the ocean when it comes to ice supply in Mackay, Act Det Insp Edwards was adamant his team's work has made a mark.

He wouldn't detail exactly how the squad launched into its Mackay-based efforts, citing "police methodology", but Act Det Insp Edwards hinted at significant "information and intelligence" which had flowed through to the squad.

"We've run these three operations almost consecutively with each other. We closed one operation, we start the second and now we've finalised the third," Act Det Insp Edwards said.

"It's had a real impact on the availability of drugs - particularly methamphetamines, ice, in these rural (and regional) communities. I think it'll have a big impact, the work we've done here."

Act Det Insp Edwards made mention of the "strong partnership" and "cooperation" between the State Drug Squad and Mackay police, which helps with the difficulty "running jobs from Brisbane".

The specialised skills of the squad and the local knowledge imbued in the ranks of the region's officers created a formidable combo, which had led to hundreds of alleged offenders charged.

Though there was "not an OMCG influence" discovered during these operations, Act Det Insp Edwards said partnerships formed by criminal enterprises stretched down to Sydney, and across other areas of the country.

Now, Act Det Insp Edwards and his team will shift their focus to other areas of the state.

However, would-be drug traffickers will have a tough time dodging attention in future, with Act Det Insp Edwards and his team set to keep a lingering eye focused on the Mackay region and its drug trade.

"We want to let the rural (and regional) communities know we're here. If some- thing comes to our attention, we'll be back," he said.

Drugs seized during the operations included ecstasy, steroids, LSD and marijuana, but no substantial amounts of cocaine, heroin or synthetic drugs were uncovered, perhaps due to "social trends".