Comanchero boss Mark Buddle has been dragged onto a private jet and extradited from Darwin to Melbourne to face two charges for allegedly importing about $40million worth of cocaine.
The nation’s most wanted man was apprehended by Australian Federal Police in Darwin on Tuesday after being deported from Turkey, where he was arrested last month for visa issues.
After spending the past few days in a cell, Buddle was flown from Darwin to Victoria on Friday morning, where he will front court for allegedly importing more than $160kg of cocaine in the state’s capital city in March, 2021.
Footage released by AFP shows at least four officers escorting the handcuffed 37-year-old across the tarmac and onto the plane, with two of the officers holding Buddle under each arm while pressing his back.
Mark Buddle was extradited from Darwin to Melbourne on Friday morning (pictured)
After boarding, Buddle was shuffled down the aisle and thrusted into a seat while officers watched guard from neighbouring rows.
Assistant Commissioner Nigel Ryan said Buddle, who was the subject of an Interpol red notice, said Buddle touched down in Australia after Turkey made an ‘independent decision’ to deport him.
‘He was escorted by Turkish authorities by charter flight to Darwin where he was taken into AFP custody and arrested,’ Assistant Commissioner Ryan told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
Buddle faced court in Darwin on Tuesday, where AFP applied to have him extradited to Melbourne to face one count of importing and another of conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
Each offence 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, which used dedicated 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 under the same operation.
AFP officers escorted Buddle onto the charter flight to Victoria, where he is facing two drug importation charges
AFP will allege Buddle imported 160kg of cocaine – which has a street value of about $40million into Melbourne in March 2021
The AFP alleges that in mid-2021 it identified Buddle as the sender of encrypted communications about the alleged cocaine import, leading the AFP to launch Operation Gain-Orion to target his activities.
In October, AFP engaged with the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions in preparation to seek a warrant for Buddle’s arrest, with a full brief of evidence submitted in January.
A Melbourne Magistrates Court issued an arrest warrant in relation to the alleged cocaine importation in mid-July, with an Interpol Red Notice put out 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 publically revealed the existence of this taskforce, which targets Australia’s biggest organised crime threats offshore, disrupts their criminal activities and ultimately ensures these alleged criminals face prosecution,’ he said.
‘Operation Gain harnesses the AFP’s extensive international network, sophisticated capabilities, and Australian law enforcement partners, such as the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.’
Assistant Commissioner Ryan said the AFP had strong global partnerships and recently hosted Turkish authorities in Canberra, where crucial intelligence 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 the mother of his two kids Mel Ter Wisscha
‘Australians who think they can hide offshore in perceived safe havens peddling drugs into Australian communities, destroying lives and making huge profits – take this as a warning – the AFP will be relentless in our pursuit to ensure you face justice.’
Buddle became leader of the infamous Comanchero gang in 2009 after the former leader, Mahmoud ‘Mick’ Hawi, was jailed for a fatal brawl at Sydney Airport.
He left Australia for Dubai in 2016 with his glamorous long-time girlfriend Mel Ter Wisscha and their two children.
The AFP alleges Buddle moved overseas to avoid the scrutiny of Australian law enforcement.
Buddle then flitted between a range of countries including Greece, Turkey and Iraq before settling in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus where he received a residency permit on the grounds his ‘high income’ would bring wealth to the territory.
Australian authorities had been working tirelessly behind the scenes to extradite Buddle from Turkey.