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Melbourne-based crime syndicate's drug plane too heavy to take off

Police say a light plane heading for Australia was allegedly laden with with $80 million worth of cocaine, it was too heavy to take off. There was allegedly 500 kilograms of drugs on board - about the same weight as a horse.

The plane tried to fly from Papua New Guinea to Queensland when it crashed on take-off. If the flight had been successful, the drugs were to be driven upon landing in Mareeba to Victoria. Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary seized the drugs on July 31 2020 after a six day search in the jungle.

Five members of a Melbourne-based crime syndicate - with links to Italian organised crime - face multiple charges for trying to import the drugs and face life in jail. It is alleged the group travelled from Melbourne and Sydney to Atherton, near Cairns, to import and collect the cocaine.

'Ndrangheta' mafia Members Salvatore Formica and Pierino Forni face extradition hearings. Aiden Khoder, 31, Sydney man George Merheb and the truck driver Osman Elhouli, are also charged.

The plane's Australian pilot handed himself in at the Australian consulate. He was arrested and charged with an immigration offence.

This latest drug seizure marks the end of a two-year multi-agency drugs operation.