Comanchero boss Mark Buddle has been towed on a private jet and extradited from Darwin to Melbourne to face two charges of allegedly importing about $40 million worth of cocaine.
The country’s most wanted man was detained by Australian federal police in Darwin on Tuesday after being deported from Turkey, where he was arrested last month for visa problems.
After spending the past few days in a cell, Buddle was flown from Darwin to Victoria on Friday morning, where he will appear in court for allegedly importing more than 160kg of cocaine into the state capital in March 2021.
Footage released by AFP shows at least four officers escorting the handcuffed 37-year-old across the tarmac to the plane, with two of the officers holding Buddle under each arm while pressing on his back.
Mark Buddle was extradited to Melbourne by Darwin on Friday morning (photo)
After boarding, Buddle was jolted down the aisle and pushed into a seat while officers kept watch from neighboring rows.
Assistant Commissioner Nigel Ryan said Buddle, who was the subject of an Interpol red message, said Buddle landed in Australia after Turkey made an “independent decision” to expel him.
“He was escorted by the Turkish authorities by charter flight to Darwin, where he was taken into custody and arrested,” Assistant Commissioner Ryan said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Buddle faced court in Darwin on Tuesday, where AFP filed to extradite him to Melbourne on charges of importation and another of conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
Each crime carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The AFP will allege that Operation Ironside South-Britannic linked the man to a transnational criminal syndicate operating out of Asia and Europe that used special encrypted communications to coordinate the shipment of the cocaine from Hong Kong to Melbourne via Sydney.
Five people were arrested in Australia in May 2021 during the same operation.
AFP agents escorted Buddle to the charter flight to Victoria, where he faces two drug import charges
AFP claims that Buddle imported 160kg of cocaine – with a street value of around $40 million – into Melbourne in March 2021
The AFP claims it identified Buddle as the sender of encrypted communications about the alleged cocaine import in mid-2021, leading the AFP to launch Operation Gain-Orion to crack down on its activities.
In October, AFP contacted the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions in preparation for seeking an arrest warrant for Buddle, with a full list of evidence submitted in January.
A Melbourne Magistrates Court issued an arrest warrant in mid-July in connection with the alleged cocaine importation, and an Interpol Red Notice appeared days later.
Assistant Commissioner Ryan said Buddle had been a target of Operation Gain, a transnational off-shore disruption task force, since March 2021.
This is the first time the AFP has made public the existence of this task force, which focuses on the biggest threats posed by organized crime off the coast of Australia, disrupting their criminal activities and ultimately ensuring that these alleged criminals be prosecuted,” he said.
“Operation Gain leverages the AFP’s extensive international network, advanced capabilities and Australian law enforcement partners such as the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.”
Assistant Commissioner Ryan said the AFP has strong global partnerships and recently hosted Turkish authorities in Canberra, where crucial information was shared between agencies.
Comanchero boss was taken into police custody in Darwin on Tuesday (pictured) after being deported from Turkey
Mark Buddle pictured with his ex-girlfriend and mother of his two children Mel Ter Wisscha
Australians who think they can hide offshore in alleged safe havens that are peddling drugs into Australian communities, destroying lives and making huge profits – take this as a warning – the AFP will be relentless in our pursuit of making sure you get justice .’
Buddle became leader of the infamous Comanchero gang in 2009 after its former leader, Mahmoud ‘Mick’ Hawi, was imprisoned for a fatal brawl at Sydney Airport.
He left Australia in 2016 for Dubai with his glamorous longtime girlfriend Mel Ter Wisscha and their two children.
The AFP alleges that Buddle moved abroad to avoid scrutiny by Australian law enforcement.
Buddle then fled between a number of countries, including Greece, Turkey and Iraq, before settling in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where he was granted a residence permit because his “high income” would bring wealth to the area.
The Australian authorities had worked tirelessly behind the scenes to extradite Buddle from Turkey.