Accused kingpin ‘behind $683m drug plots’ behind bars

Rex Martinich, Laine Clark and Savannah Meacham |

A failed cocaine importation off Moreton Island allegedly led to the drug washing up on NSW beaches.
A failed cocaine importation off Moreton Island allegedly led to the drug washing up on NSW beaches.

A man has been accused of being the Australian ringleader behind a botched drug import plot that led to cocaine blocks washing up on NSW beaches.

Daniel Wayne Roberts, 36, in the past year allegedly played a major role in the importation of almost two tonnes of cocaine that had an estimated street value of $683 million.

The Australian Federal Police said they also suspected he had been involved in plots to import a further 20 tonnes of drugs into Australia since late 2023.

Roberts is accused of being the Australian head of a transnational organised crime organisation, using the name of notorious American gangster John Dillinger or “WANTED” in encrypted messages.

“We believe these drugs were coming from all across the globe,” AFP Detective Superintendent Adrian Telfer told reporters on Thursday.

“We believe this syndicate was well connected with the global supply chain of prohibited drugs.”

Roberts was arrested in Brisbane’s northern suburbs on Wednesday following a 12-month joint investigation.

He appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday on seven charges relating to the alleged importation of commercial quantities of drugs and dealing in proceeds of crime.

The Aspley man faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Roberts is accused of trying to import 900kg of cocaine off Queensland’s Moreton Island in November 2023.

The AFP said the planned collection at sea was unsuccessful and bricks of cocaine washed up on NSW beaches in the ensuing weeks.

So far, only 256kg of the drug has washed ashore and been seized.

Cocaine
The AFP says cocaine washed up on NSW beaches after a planned collection at sea was unsuccessful. (HANDOUT/NSW POLICE)

“There was understandably community concern when cocaine washed up on beaches,” Det Supt Telfer said.

“The AFP and our partners dedicated a significant amount of resources to ensure we have kept the public safe and brought those allegedly responsible before the courts.”

Roberts is also accused of helping import 565kg of cocaine into Western Australia in August 2023.

The drugs were allegedly dropped overboard from a bulk cargo carrier before being brought to shore at the coastal town of Kalbarri.

The AFP said they believed Roberts had also been involved in schemes to import a further 20 tonnes of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin into Australia since late 2023.

Police are also investigating his suspected involvement in the trafficking of cocaine, MDMA and meth across Australia from 2022-2024.

Roberts was charged with a further 12 offences for allegedly using violence and threats to collect debts and intimidate rivals.

He is accused of engaging criminal associates to assault, firebomb, shoot at and extort customers.

AFP Detective Superintendent Adrian Telfer speaks to media
The AFP says further search warrants have been executed and more arrests are possible. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Police alleged the “targeted attacks” included five shots being fired into a home in Brisbane’s south that had five children inside.

Det Supt Telfer described Roberts as a “serious threat to the safety of the community”.

Roberts did not appear in court on Thursday.

Defence solicitor Alex Jones said his client would not apply for bail.

A Queensland police prosecutor earlier told Magistrate Aaron Simpson he had heard from parole authorities and it was expected Roberts would be given a return to custody order.

Commonwealth prosecutor Daniel Trigger sought for the matter to be next heard on May 3 in Brisbane Magistrates Court.

Mr Simpson adjourned the case to that date and held Roberts on remand while excusing him from appearing in person.

The AFP said further search warrants were executed across Brisbane and Hervey Bay and more arrests were possible.

AAP