Police have arrested eight people alleged to be part of an international organised crime gang accused of stealing more than $1.2 million of luxury goods from homes and shopping centres across Sydney and Melbourne.
- The members of the alleged gang are Chilean tourists
- The gang is accused of targeting homes and shops, taking designer clothing and sporting gear
- The illicit goods were allegedly posted back to Chile, or sold, with the cash being transferred overseas.
Officers from State Crime Command established Strike Force Merengue in November after a tip-off after from Canadian police who believed the gang could be in the country.
Investigators identified a spree of 80 aggravated break and enters across Sydney in September and October in leafy suburbs such as Vaucluse, Rose Bay, Five Dock and Castle Hill.
Police allege the gang also operated in Melbourne where a 34-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman were arrested following a shoplifting spree at retail outlets in Chadstone, Ringwood and Doncaster.
Police allege the robberies were carried out by Chilean nationals who were in the country on tourist visas. They are also suspected of carrying out robberies in Queensland and the ACT.
The arrests began at Sydney Airport in late November when two men, a 23-year-old and a 27-year-old, were caught trying to leave the country.
The ABC understands the woman allegedly involved in the syndicate is also wanted in relation to shoplifting offences in the US state of California earlier this year.
Police say they are working with Chilean authorities to seize packages of stolen goods sent back to Chile, with thousands of dollars of cash also transferred to the country.
NSW Police Detective Superintendent Daniel Doherty said the criminal gang was highly organised.
“There are people that are acting as facilitators in the Sydney area that have helped them organise the criminal group and arrange for their activities,” he said.
“The criminal group were very sophisticated and very well planned and coordinated.
“The items were mainly cash, jewellery, gold and luxury items — so easy to transport and ship back overseas.”
Eight people were arrested in total, five men and three women aged between 19 and 41, and all have been refused bail and will face court again next month.
Both men charged in Melbourne will be extradited to Sydney.
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