Serbian police arrest 3 Australians over $400M cocaine haul

A Serbian police car (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 January 2018
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Serbian police arrest 3 Australians over $400M cocaine haul

CANBERRA, Australia: Three Australians have been arrested in Serbia over the second-largest cocaine haul in Australian law enforcement history, police said on Thursday.
Serbian police alleged the men arrested in a Belgrade hotel foyer on Wednesday “are linked to” the discovery of 1.28 metric tons (1.41 US tons) of cocaine that were seized last April on a Chinese freighter docked in Sydney. The drug haul was worth 500 million Australian dollars ($400 million), police said.
Police said the arrests were made during a “money handover.” A Lebanese citizen was detained and charged with having forged identity documents.
The drug was concealed in pre-fabricated steel in more than 2,500 individual blocks and was the second largest cocaine seizure in Australia, Australian Federal Police and the Australian Border Force said in a statement.
“This was a sophisticated concealment, but thanks to our highly trained officers and world-class screening technology, we were able to locate the cocaine and ultimately disrupt a significant international drug operation,” Border Force Assistant Commissioner Tim Fitzgerald said.
The largest Australian haul of the illicit drug was 1.4 metric tons (1.5 US tons) found in February last year in a yacht that had allegedly smuggled it from the South Pacific. Six people were charged and face potential life prison sentences.
That larger haul was valued at over A$300 million because of its lower purity than the second-largest haul.
After the Serbian arrests, Australian police executed five search warrants in the national capital Canberra and three towns in New South Wales state. No arrests have been made in Australia, but investigations continue, police said.
Illicit drugs command relatively high prices in Australia, making it an attractive market for international drug networks despite its remoteness.


Pakistan heatwave kills 65 people in Karachi — welfare organization

Updated 53 min 38 sec ago
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Pakistan heatwave kills 65 people in Karachi — welfare organization

  • Temperatures hit 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) on Monday
  • Most of the dead were low wage factory workers who work around heaters and boilers in textile factories and there is eight to nine hours of scheduled power outages in these areas, says Faisal Edhi, who runs the Edhi Foundation

ISLAMABAD: A heatwave has killed 65 people in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi over the past three days, a social welfare organization said on Tuesday, amid fears the death toll could climb as the high temperatures persist.
The heatwave has coincided with power outages and the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. Temperatures hit 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) on Monday, local media reported.
Faisal Edhi, who runs the Edhi Foundation that operates morgues and an ambulance service in Pakistan’s biggest city, said the deaths occurred mostly in the poor areas of Karachi.
“Sixty-five people have died over the last three days,” Edhi told Reuters. “We have the bodies in our cold storage facilities and their neighborhood doctors have said they died of heat-stroke.”
A government spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
But Sindh province’s Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho told the English-language Dawn newspaper that no one has died from heat-stroke.
“Only doctors and hospitals can decide whether the cause of death was heat-stroke or not. I categorically reject that people have died due to heat-stroke in Karachi,” Pechuho was quoted as saying.
Nonetheless, reports of heat stroke deaths in Karachi will stir unease amid fears of a repeat of a heatwave in of 2015, when morgues and hospitals were overwhelmed and at least 1,300 mostly elderly and sick people died from the searing heat.
In 2015, the Edhi morgue ran out of freezer space after about 650 bodies were brought in the space of a few days. Ambulances left decaying corpses outside in sweltering heat.
The provincial government has assured residents that there would be no repeat of 2015 and was working on ensuring those in need of care receive rapid treatment.
Edhi said most of the dead brought to the morgue were working class factory workers who came from the low-income Landhi and Qur’angi areas of Karachi.
“They work around heaters and boilers in textile factories and there is eight to nine hours of (scheduled power outages) in these areas,” he said.
Temperatures are expected to stay above 40C until Thursday, local media reported.