Mataranka and Katherine police played a part in a major police operation into serious cannabis smuggling and money laundering.
The police dog's discovery of 32 kilograms of cannabis hidden in a ute in Mataranka earlier in the month was part of a larger secret operation between NT Police and Australian Federal Police into organised crime.
Even more drugs were found hidden in the ute when it was more thoroughly searched when it was returned to Katherine.
It now appears the bust was part of a larger NT Joint Organised Crime Task Force operation.
Police revealed on the weekend, Operation CURLY was launched in October last year to investigate a large number of suspicious electronic money transfers from Darwin and Indonesia, allegedly totalling more than $1 million and dating back to June, 2019.
Police claim an alleged 49-year-old NT drug dealer had organised couriers to take money to Bali on his behalf to invest in clubs and bars in an attempt to 'launder' it, as well as investing in businesses, property and vehicles in Australia for the same purpose.
The money was allegedly from the proceeds of cannabis dealing, with police also claiming the man supplied cannabis to more than 100 people from his Parap apartment.
Investigators allege the man sourced commercial quantities of cannabis from several people, including two men who were arrested during attempts to deliver drugs from South Australia and Victoria.
A 54-year-old man, from Howard Springs, was charged in February after investigators intercepted a delivery of 23.6 kilograms of cannabis being sent by freight from South Australia.
With the Mataranka bust a second man, aged 36 from Darwin, was arrested as he allegedly tried to transport 32 kilograms of cannabis from Victoria hidden in compartments in his utility.
At the time, police valued the seized drugs at $360,000.
The 49-year-old was arrested and charged last week after task force officers executed a search warrant at his Parap apartment.
Police seized cannabis, more than $16,000 cash, precious stones and financial documentation from the property.
Three other men accused of being involved in the alleged drug dealing network were also arrested and charged with a range of offences this week after search warrants were executed at their Northern Territory homes.
During Operation Curly, NT JOCTF investigators have located and seized more than 60 kilograms of cannabis - with an estimated street value of up to $1.5 million - a number of vehicles and almost $50,000 in cash.
A collection of sapphires, opals and other precious stones have also been seized.
Criminal Asset Confiscation Taskforce investigators will now look at what assets were the proceeds of crime.
Investigations into the drug supply network are ongoing and further charges may be laid.
The 49-year-old Parap man appeared in Darwin Local Court on Friday charged with six offences, including possessing and supplying a commercial quantity of a dangerous drug (cannabis), money laundering and property offences.
Two of the other men charged this week also faced Darwin Local Court on Friday.
A 32-year-old Fannie Bay man has been charged with three offences - supply and possession of a commercial quantity of cannabis and possessing property used in commission of an offence.
A 35-year-old Victorian man has been charged with the offence of demand with menace, over allegations he extorted $28,000 cash from the 49-year-old man in relation to cannabis seized by police. He was also charged with possessing property used in commission of an offence.
A 42-year-old Moulden man faced Darwin Local Court on Thursday charged with four offences, including supply and possession of a commercial quantity of cannabis and possessing property used in commission of an offence.
All four men have been remanded in custody and are expected to next appear in Darwin Local Court in May.
AFP Superintendent Matthew Ballard said the arrests were another example of the JOCTF's commitment to causing maximum damage to the criminal environment in the Northern Territory.
"Together, the JOCTF has prevented more than 60 kilograms of cannabis from entering into our community, while also simultaneously dismantling and disrupting the work of an organised crime syndicate," he said.
Police Supt Kerry Hoskins said the arrests were a significant win for both police and the Northern Territory.
"It's incredibly pleasing that we've been able to work in cooperation with our law enforcement partners in order to target and prevent this organised crime group operating in the NT," Supt Hoskins said.
The Northern Territory Joint Organised Crime Taskforce comprises of officers from the Australian Federal Police, NT Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Crime Intelligence Commission and the Department of Home Affairs.
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