UPDATE: Police investigating an alleged WA organised crime syndicate over money-laundering are questioning about 180 foreign nationals amid suspicions they have been used as illegal workers at market gardens.
The men, women and children, believed to be from three or four different countries, were taken from a compound in Carabooda early this morning during police raids.
The Department of Immigration will also check the visa status of those people.
Acting Det-Supt. Chris Adams, the operational commander, said they were questioning other people over their links to the alleged complex crime organisation, which police claim has been operating in WA for about a decade and involved tens of millions of dollars.
The operation was sparked about 12 months ago as an investigation into suspected money-laundering.
Police suspect operators of some market gardens, which supply vegetables to WA supermarkets, have an illegal workforce to bolster the funding of their legitimate businesses.
Acting Det-Supt Adams said the foreign nationals “did appear at this stage to be a workforce”.
“But we’re continuing our inquiries and we’ll be able to shed more light on that when we unravel the complexity around this organised crime syndicate,” he said.
Police claimed they had seized a big amount of illegal firearms and cash during the raids.
No charges have yet been laid.
Heavy gates were ripped from walls surrounding houses in Carabooda – in Perth’s north – as part of the major police operation.
A massive police presence remained in the area hours after officers from the Australian Federal Police, WA Police and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service targeted the suburb in today’s series of dawn raids.
Police said members of the public in the area need not to be concerned by the increased number of officers involved in the operation.
The Tactical Response Group smashed down gates to gain access to the secure properties.
Government agencies executed dozens of search warrants across the Perth metropolitan area about 4am in an attempt to identify, target and dismantle organised crime syndicates operating in the State.
The raids were also executed in Victoria.
More than 500 police officers were involved in the operation.
Police said a “significant number” of items of interest were seized, including cash, firearms and computers.
It is understood at least six properties were involved in the Carabooda raids.
Roads including Bailey Road were blocked while police continued to search the properties.
Officers also spoke to people at a nearby tomato farm, which is protected by high barbed wire, according to the ABC.
Two mini-buses escorted by police were seen taking people from the properties about 10am.
The government agencies involved in the operation are attached to Project Tricord and Operation Polo.
The agencies also included the Australian Crime Commission, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Corruption and Crime Commission, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.