Slot Machines Used by Australian Gang to Ship Drugs, Weapons From the US

Posted on: August 17, 2023, 07:04h. 

Last updated on: August 17, 2023, 12:32h.

The term one-armed bandit recently took on a slightly different meaning in Australia. Two Melbourne men believed to be members of a large criminal organization were apprehended by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for their alleged involvement in smuggling firearms and drugs hidden in slot machines into the country.

The badge of the Australian Federal Police on an officer's uniform
The badge of the Australian Federal Police on an officer’s uniform. AFP officers, with the help of U.S. officials, have busted two men for importing illegal firearms and drugs in slot machines. (Image: Getty Images)

On August 16, according to a press release by the AFP, Operation Chandrila culminated in the apprehension of Ralph Sapin, a 37-year-old from the Melbourne suburb of Tarneit, and Sime Govic, a 30-year-old resident of Altona North. This significant development was made possible by the exchange of crucial information from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to the AFP back in June.

The statement from the AFP revealed that the authorities had uncovered “suspicious” packages containing components of different firearms upon inspecting shipments that arrived in Australia. That led to an investigation that found four attempts to illegally import firearm components and drugs into the country over a span of three months.

Gambling Their Lives With Slot Machines

During the execution of a search warrant, officials from the AFP found evidence Govic wouldn’t be able to refute. They discovered counterfeit identification documents and 100 grams of methamphetamine cleverly tucked away within slot machines and electronic games, as well as live ammunition in his residence and vehicle.

Truganini’s commercial warehouse in Brooklyn in New South Wales was also raided by the officers. There, they found a stash of approximately 20-30 kg of a drug precursor, a term describing a substance known for making illegal drugs.

In addition, they seized a rifle magazine and a box of .223 ammunition. While not solely designed for the purpose, the .223 can be used in AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

As a result of the raids and the evidence, Govic faces accusations of illegally importing firearms without a permit, unlawfully owning a firearm, possession of drug-related items, and of falsifying official documents. Sapin has been indicted on charges of engaging in commercial-grade drug transactions, possessing precursor chemicals, and receiving stolen merchandise.

Both face up to 10 years in prison. They’ve made their first court appearances and will return later this year to stand trial.

Australia on Ice

Australian legislators are cracking down on gambling, buying into cries that Aussies spend too much of their own money on slots. Instead, some believe they should focus their efforts more closely on the illegal drug trade.

Recent drug usage data available through the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) confirms that Australia possesses the highest per capita use of methamphetamine, widely known as ice, across the globe. Among 24 leading countries, Australia topped the list in per capita ice consumption.

The ACIC reported a year ago on drug usage trends in Australia, based on tracking through wastewater monitoring. By the end of 2021, ice, cocaine, and MDMA (known as Ecstasy or Molly) controlled the domestic market.

At the same time, the report suggests that the consumption of heroin and cannabis witnessed a significant decline during the last six months of the year. During that same period, ice, cocaine, and MDMA consumption “exceeded regional consumption for the first time since April 2017.”