Assets of Two Members of a Dark Web Drug Trafficking Trio Frozen
Two members of an Australian dark web trafficking trio, made up of a 25-year-old man and two sisters, have had their assets frozen. The trio allegedly sold drugs worth over $17 million through the dark web for five years. They were arrested on the 14th of February following nine months of investigations against their operations by Strike Force Royden, a special police unit dedicated to the fight against drug trafficking in New South Wales.
On February 20th, the NSW Crime Commission filed for restraining orders on the assets and bank accounts of 25-year-old Cody Ronald Ward and 24-year-old Shanese Koullias. The commission did not frieze the assets of the third member of the trio, 20-year-old Patricia Koullias. The commission filed for the restraining orders in the NSW Supreme Court before Justice David Davies without notifying Ward and Koullias.
The restraining order sought to freeze Ward’s assets including all cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum seized during his arrest, funds in three bank accounts in the Common Wealth Bank of Australia, three motor vehicles, and his home in Callala Bay. On Koullias’s part, the commission sought to freeze funds in four accounts in the Common Wealth Bank of Australia and a Lexus car. The commission, through its representative Attorney Katie Elaine Bourne, asked the court also to order Ward and Koullias to disclose how they acquired the funds used to obtain the assets and the date on which they purchased the assets in question.
Bourne told the court that she filed for the restraining orders on the suspicion that Ward may have engaged in serious criminal activities through the distribution of commercial quantities of MDMA, LSD, and amphetamine and through running an organized crime group. On Koullias’s part, Bourne told the court that she suspected that Koullias engaged in serious criminal offences through the distribution of commercial quantities of illegal drugs and participation in an organised crime group. Bourne based her suspicion on the fact sheet prepared by detectives responsible for investigating and arresting Ward and Koullias. She also told the court that she had contacted Detective Senior Constable Luke Bonning who had been involved in the investigations and confirmed that all the information in the fact sheets was correct. The detective also told her that the defendants had been charged and denied bail. Bourne finalized her testimonies against the defendants by arguing that based on the evidence acquired in the investigations against the defendants, she suspected that the defendant’s properties were all proceeds of crime.
At the end of the proceedings, Justice Davies said that he had also gone through the fact sheets and concluded that Bourne’s suspicions were justified. He also said that due to the urgency of the matter he felt it was appropriate to freeze the defendant’s assets before notifying them. Justice Davies then ruled that the New South Wales Trustee would immediately take control of all of the defendants’ assets and funds. He also ordered that Ward and Koullias be questioned under oath before a Court’s Registrar about all their financial interests and the location of all of their properties.
Ward and the Koullias sisters were arrested on the 14th of February after detectives of the Strike Force Royden, with the help of the Australia Post, seized 85 packages carrying a variety of illicit drugs on February 13th and used them as evidence to acquire search warrants against the trio’s properties. On February 14th, police raided the properties of the trio and seized over 200 grams of MDMA, 100,000 pills of ecstasy, Xanax, 2.5 kgs of cocaine, amphetamine, over $80,000 in cash, electronic devices, and four motor vehicles. After the raids and arrests, the trio was detained in the Norwa Police Station. The detectives carried out analysis on the electronic devices seized and found cryptocurrency wallets that had transacted over $17 million in a number of years. The police also seized an undisclosed quantity of cryptocurrencies found in the wallets.
While announcing the arrests the State Crime Commander, acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, said that the trio had been running the most massive dark web drug trafficking operation in Australia. Assistant Commissioner Smith also warned those aspiring to be dark web drug traffickers by disclosing that the NSW Police Force has the most ‘sophisticated technology and resources’ dedicated to the fight against drug trafficking.
The trio was charged in the Norwa Local Court on February 15th and denied bail. During the hearing, the court heard that Ward was a dark web drugs vendor and engaged in the sale of illicit drugs including, MDMA, cocaine, LSD, amphetamine, and prescription drugs. The police alleged that after the drugs were ordered through the dark web, the sisters prepared, packaged, and supplied the drugs through the post.