Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Operation Marca-Heritage

Year: 
2015-2016
Category: 
Serious Drugs
Location: 
New South Wales

R v Adrian Lamella; R v Paul Valsamakis; R v David Harb; R v Bruno Napoli; R v Christopher Cranney; R v Huy Bao Van Huynh (Operation Marca-Heritage)

Operation Marca-Heritage was a joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity into corruption and criminal activity on the part of Australian Customs and Border Protection Officers (ACBPS) at Sydney Airport.  The investigation, which commenced during June 2011, ultimately uncovered a group of ACBPS officers who were involved in organising importations of pseudoephedrine into Australia and, to this end, were involved in circumventing (by varying means) the screening and investigative systems in place at the airport to ensure that the couriers involved in each of the importations were not detected. In return for this, each expected to, and did, receive payments of significant sums of money.

The ACBPS officers the subject of this investigation were arrested between 17 December 2012 and 12 February 2013 and each officer was charged, most relevantly, with offences under sections 307.11 (with 11.5) and 141.1(3) of the Criminal Code (Cth).  Bruno Napoli and David Harb were also arrested on 12 February 2013, and Huy Bao Van Huynh was arrested on 14 October 2013.  They were also charged with offences under section 307.11 (with 11.5) of the Criminal Code (Cth).

On 6 February 2014, Adrian Lamella (an ACBPS officer) was sentenced for his involvement in organising three importations of commercial quantities of pseudoephedrine into Australia using six different couriers. The importations took place in June 2009, March 2010 and June 2010 and the total pure amount of pseudoephedrine imported was calculated to be between 4.8 kg and 7.35 kg.  Adrian Lamella was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, with a single non-parole period of 4 years.  This sentence was reduced by virtue of his plea of guilty and on other discretionary bases. The Crown appealed this sentence, and on 10 July 2014, the NSWCCA dismissed the Crown appeal. Although the NSWCCA held that the non-parole period was manifestly inadequate, it exercised its residual discretion not to intervene.  The Court, however, did indicate that a non-parole period of 6 years should have been imposed.

On 30 January 2015, Paul Valsamakis (an ACBPS officer) was sentenced for his involvement in organising 5 importations of commercial quantities of pseudoephedrine into Australia using 8 different couriers. The importations were organised between December 2011 and June 2012, and the total pure amount of pseudoephedrine imported was calculated to be between about 90 kg.  The methodology for this series of importations involved a baggage handler (David Harb) retrieving the courier’s bags from the relevant flights and delivering them to Bruno Napoli (a civilian participant) at locations outside the airport, thereby avoiding the Customs screening and inspection systems within the airport facilities. Paul Valsamakis was sentenced to 9 years imprisonment with a single non-parole period of 6 years.  This sentence was reduced by virtue of his plea of guilty and on other discretionary bases.  Paul Valsamakis subsequently filed an appeal against this sentence.  On 4 August 2016, the NSWCCA delivered judgment with respect to the appeal and while leave to appeal the sentence was granted, the appeal was dismissed.

On 30 January 2015, David Harb and Bruno Napoli were also sentenced for their respective involvement in the importations organised between December 2011 and June 2012.  David Harb was sentenced to five years and six months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of three years and nine months, for his role in the importations organised between December 2011 and June 2012 and Bruno Napoli was sentenced to nine years imprisonment, with a non-parole-period of six years, for his role in organising the importations conducted between January and June 2012.

The trial of R v Christopher Cranney & Huy Bao Van Huynh commenced on 23 March 2015 and continued until early June 2015. Christopher Cranney (an ACBPS officer) was charged with 5 offences under sections 307.11 (with 11.5) and 141.1(3) of the Criminal Code (Cth) in relation to his alleged involvement, as a senior ACBPS officer, in the 5 importations organised between December 2011 and June 2012.  Huy Bao Van Huynh (a civilian participant) was charged under section 307.11 (with 11.5) of the Criminal Code (Cth) in relation to his alleged involvement in the 4 importations organised during 2012. 

On 9 June 2015, the jury found Christopher Cranney not guilty in relation to two charges relating to his alleged involvement in the importation organised during 2011, but found him guilty of the three remaining charges relating to his involvement in the importations organised during 2012.    On the same date, the jury also found Huy Bao Van Huynh guilty of the charge relating to his involvement in the importations organised during 2012.

When sentencing Christopher Cranney and Huy Bao Van Huynh at Sydney District Court on 20 November 2015, his Honour Judge Whitford DCJ, in summary, found that:   

  • With their co-conspirators, both Christopher Cranney and Huy Huynh performed vital roles in seeking to achieve the criminal objects of the importation enterprise.Christopher Cranney was deliberately and enthusiastically involved in all four of the importations carried out in pursuit of the conspiracy on foot during 2012. He acted together with his two ACBPS colleagues to circumvent the screening and investigative systems in place at Sydney International Airport to ensure, so far as possible, that the couriers were able to pass through the airport without being detected. In doing so, he participated in the active subversion of the screening and detection systems designed to prevent such importations. Huynh was also a deliberate and active participant in the same importation enterprise, and as the person responsible for sourcing the pseudoephedrine, he played a critical role in the success of the planned importations.

  • The fact that Christopher Cranney’s offending occurred whilst he was employed as an ACBPS officer in dereliction of the public duties he was entrusted to discharge, and in circumstances where he used knowledge and information that he had gained from his position as an ACBPS officer, were serious aggravating factors. Furthermore, his conduct involved a gross breach of trust.
  • During the course of the 2012 conspiracy, 7 couriers had been organised to import a total of approximately 124kgs (87kg pure) of pseudoephedrine powder with a wholesale value of approximately $6,200,000.00.

Christopher Cranney - Sentence

Christopher Cranney was sentenced as follows:

In respect of the following offences:

  • one count of conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled pre-cursor (pseudoephedrine)(between 1.01.12 and 30.06.12), contrary to section 307.11 (with 11.5) of the Criminal Code 1995
  • two counts of bribery of a Commonwealth Public Official, contrary to section 141.1(3) of the Criminal Code 1995;

his Honour Judge Whitford SC, in total, imposed a head sentence of 14 years imprisonment (12 May 2014 – 11 May 2028) with a single non-parole period of 8 years and 9 months (12 May 2014 – 11 February 2023).

Huy Bao Van Huynh - Sentence

Huy Bao Van Huynh was sentenced as follows:

In respect of one count of conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled pre-cursor (pseudoephedrine)(between 1.01.12 and 30.06.12), contrary to section 307.11 (with 11.5) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth), his Honour Judge Whitford SC imposed a head sentence of 12 years imprisonment (1 August 2014 – 31 July 2026) with a non-parole period of 8 years imprisonment (1 August 2014 – 31 July 2022).

Bruno Napoli

Napoli sought leave to appeal but was refused.