One man charged after an Australian Federal Police investigation involving the decryption of communication from hundreds of alleged criminals over three years has been granted bail.
Graeme Lench is facing serious drug charges and is accused of being involved in a drug trafficking syndicate involving MDMA.
But Victorian Magistrate Timothy Bourke granted Lench bail on Tuesday after accepting he had exceptional circumstances.
The court heard the father of two had children aged two and seven, and a wife who worked as a nurse.
He also has a criminal history but has not significantly offended since 2003.
Mr Lench, 40, was granted bail with a $25,000 surety and is due back in court on September 1.
“I’m satisfied that the accused has made out exceptional circumstances,” Mr Bourke said.
“In respect to his prior criminal history, it’s so dated that it doesn’t carry as much weight.”
Under the terms of his bail, Lench must report to police three times per week, abide by a curfew from 10pm to 5am, and not contact witnesses or his co-accused.
He must also surrender his passport, cannot leave the state or country, and is banned from possessing more than one mobile phone or a tablet device with internet capabilities.
Separately, Mark Joannou was also arrested in relation to Operation Ironside.
He too applied for bail but Mr Bourke reserved his decision on that matter until Thursday.
In Mr Joannou’s case, it is alleged that between March 31 and June 7 this year he and others conspired to import commercial quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine.
The court heard Mr Joannou’s wife was seven months’ pregnant but was not entitled to work or receive Centrelink payments because she was an Indonesian national. They also have a nine-month-old child.
A Queensland man who said Mr Joannou was his “most reliable contractor” in a bathroom business, has offered to provide a surety.
“I know Mark. I know he won’t let me down,” the man said.
“I can’t believe what I’m listening to (in court).”
Several other people also appeared in court on Tuesday on various drug and weapon charges, stemming from the same broad police operation.
None of them applied for bail and were each remanded in custody until their next respective court dates.
Operation Ironside was led by the AFP, which worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.
The operation involved the app ANoM and the decryption of communication that allegedly included plots to kill, mass drug trafficking and gun distribution.
Since 2018, there had been 3.7 tonnes of drugs, 104 weapons and $44.9m in cash seized, as well as 20 threats to kill, police said in a statement on Tuesday.
Operation Ironside resulted in the arrest of 224 people on 526 charges across Australia.
More arrests are expected domestically and overseas, including extradition requests.
The AFP alleges those charged have links to Australian-based Italian mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs, Asian crime syndicate and Albanian organised crime.