21 Jan 2019

Six people charged over alleged $1m baby formula ring

4:06 pm on 21 January 2019

An organised crime ring that allegedly sold stolen baby formula on the black market overseas made $A1 million ($NZ1.06m) in just 12 months, police say.

family, parenthood and people concept - close up of father feeding little daughter with baby formula from bottle at home

Alleged thieves have been taking baby formula out of the mouths of Australian babies, Sydney police say. Photo: 123RF

Six people have been charged after police received information about coordinated thefts of formula and vitamins from major retailers in Sydney last year.

Detective Superintendent Daniel Doherty said the "unscrupulous activity" was fuelled by greed and had been operating for years.

"Police will continue to pursue these people because not only are they making a quick dollar out of greed and disadvantaging the mums and dads of Australia, they're also literally taking baby formula out of the mouths of babies," he said.

"We're thinking this was quite an expansive criminal group that was exploiting an overseas market at the disadvantage of the Australian public."

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Some of the boxes of milk formula that is alleged to have been stolen. Photo: Supplied / New South Wales police

Detective Superintendent Doherty said thousands of shipments of formula were sent to China over "a number of years", however the $1 million related to the past 12 months.

Australian Border Force (ABF) officers arrested a 31-year-old Carlingford man after he arrived at Sydney International Airport on a flight from China at about 10:30am on Saturday.

Officers searched the man's luggage before arresting and charging him with two offences, including recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

He was granted conditional bail at Parramatta Bail Court and is due to appear in court again on January 30.

The arrest came about five months after police raided a Carlingford home and allegedly found 4000 tins of baby formula, vitamins, mānuka honey and more than $250,000 in cash.

A 48-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the search. Police continued to track the syndicate's activities and also arrested a 29-year-old woman and three men, aged 35, 53 and 42.

Detective Superintendent Doherty described the investigation as "meticulous" and was "very confident" of further arrests in the near future.

He credited major retailers for providing crucial information that helped track the syndicate's alleged activities.