South Burnett town of Durong at the centre of international cocaine bust
It's a neat-as-a-pin, blink-and-you'll-miss it, quiet Queensland country town.
With two quaint timber churches, a general store and small state school, the 200-plus residents of Durong, three hours north-west of Brisbane, like their sleepy lifestyle.
But a late-night raid on a rural property in the picturesque community has blasted Durong across international headlines with alleged links to a Colombian drug cartel and a clandestine cocaine lab reminiscent of scenes from popular small-screen series Breaking Bad.
Australian Federal Police on Friday charged eight men and a woman with allegedly importing and manufacturing hundreds of kilograms of drugs as part of an organised crime syndicate with links to outlaw bikie gangs.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Eastern Command Kirsty Schofield described the international syndicate as "ruthless and well-resourced" and said they had built an industrial-size laboratory on a property among the red dirt farming land around Durong.
Sources have told ABC News that authorities will be processing drugs at the property for several days due to the amount of chemicals and cocaine that was found.
The shock news has left residents reeling.
Durong General Store and Café owner Rachel Bringans said the community felt violated.
"We can't believe something this big could happen under our nose," she said.
"We have a lot of older generations of hardworking farmers, and we have some new lovely families who have moved here for the school, so everyone gets on."
She said there were no problems or conflicts in the area.
"We don't really have police here because there is no real crime out here," she said.
"You work hard to build your area up to be tight-knit community and for someone to come in and stuff it around is quite upsetting because it gives our area a bad name."
Durong is located between Dalby and Munduberra, about 90 kilometres north-west of Kingaroy and the same distance north-east of Chinchilla.
As you drive into Durong along State Road 82, there's two small timber churches on the left, Catholic then Anglican, and a bowls club sitting alone among vast green paddocks on the right.
Further down, the community hall is set to host a disco and movie night next month, with optional 70s dress code, and the general store and café offers weekend dinner specials like chilli con carne for $10.90 or ribs, chips and salad for $15.90.
The Durong South State School sits on a pretty, tree-lined side-street and the students tend a veggie patch or play cricket on the large oval at the back.
Nearby Boondooma Dam is a popular spot for fishing, swimming and boating and the town comes alive each May when thousands of people descend on the region for the Burrandowan Picnic Races.
There are about 125 households including a tidy-looking 16-hectare property with a four-bedroom house and a number of outbuildings.
The property was allegedly bought in April this year by a man from Brisbane who had been looking at it since February and told a local agent he planned to use it to ride motorbikes.
Located outside the small town centre, the property was nearly cut off this week by flood waters as unseasonal winter rain swamped the region, claiming the life of a motorist in Nanango.
Police sources said federal officers had needed help getting in and out of the property due the muddy and blocked off roads.
South Burnett Regional Council mayor Brett Otto said he had not yet had a briefing on the police raid in his community as he'd spent the day trying to help people stay safe in the flood waters.
"The Stuart and Boyne rivers both run out through [Durong] so to access that is quite perilous," he said.
"There is quite a big body of water surrounding that town, so it is quite dangerous."
Mr Otto said he was sure the community would be very concerned by allegation of a drug lab in their backyard.
"They're lovely salt-of-the-earth farming people out there," he said.
"It really is the most lovely community but as we know these things can happen anywhere these days so I'm sure they'll be quite disappointed."
The AFP operation known as Operation Meridan resulted in the arrest of eight men and a woman in three states, including two men at the Durong property, where they were allegedly extracting and manufacturing commercial quantities of cocaine.
Fabio Alberto Fernandez, a 48-year-old Spanish-Colombian dual citizen, and Alexander Villegis Jaramillo, 38, a Colombian-born Australian citizen, appeared in Kingaroy Magistrates Court on Friday each charged with one count of conspiracy to manufacture a commercial quantity of controlled drugs.
The AFP will allege Mr Fernandez flew into Australia in May and teamed up with Mr Jarmillo as the chemical specialists responsible for extracting the cocaine from the substance in which it was hidden.
Both men were remanded in custody with Mr Fernandez to appear in person in Kingaroy on Monday.
Another man, Gregory William Murphy, 36, was arrested at his Gold Coast home, while 31-year-old Douglas Hercules Ivan Sinnamon, was arrested at his Brisbane home on charges related to organising and facilitating the Durong drug lab, which police will allege could have produced 700 kilograms of cocaine.
Mr Murphy was charged with conspiracy to manufacture commercial quantities of controlled drugs and faced the Southport Magistrates court on Friday.
Police allege the large-scale cocaine syndicate kept chemicals and petrol used to further the operations of the drug racket at a Gold Coast wholesale food supplier.
Australian federal prosecutors allege Mr Murphy and another person took the items used in the extraction of cocaine from the Varsity Lakes business and made the four-hour trip to the remote Durong property.
Mr Sinnamon is alleged to have helped organise the construction of the Durong extraction facility and used suspected criminal proceeds to pay for items the syndicate required to make it operational.
The court heard that Mr Sinnamon, who works at a car dealership and has no criminal history, allegedly had "knowledge of what it was to be used for" and had discussed with another co-accused ways they could "hide it", including putting farm animals on the property, so it did not look so "suss".
He was granted bail in the Brisbane Magistrates Court and is expected to return to court next month.
Tuna Samuelu, 37, also fronted the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday and was granted bail.
Mr Samuelu is accused of trafficking a commercial quantity of cocaine, allegedly picking up 11 kilograms of the drug from the shed with Mr Sinnamon, before handing it over to another co-accused, who then drove it into New South Wales.
A western Sydney man, 38, was arrested north of Newcastle as he drove back to Sydney from Queensland.
When AFP officers searched his utility they allegedly found about 11kg of cocaine hidden inside two small fridges, loaded on the back of a Volkswagen Amarok ute.
A woman, 32, was arrested at her Brisbane home where police seized more than $1 million in cash that police will allege is the proceeds of crime.
A 33-year-old man arrested outside a gym in Darwin was alleged to have been running the Australian activities of a South American organised crime group.
The Darwin man's home was raided, where Australian Federal Police said they seized thousands of dollars in cash, electronic devices and steroids.
Another Gold Coast man, 30, was also arrested in Darwin and charged over his alleged involvement in the manufacturing operation.
Additional reporting by Lydia Burton and Vicki Thompson
ABC Southern Qld will deliver a wrap of the week's news, stories and photos every Wednesday. Sign up here
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
South Burnett town of Durong at the centre of international cocaine bust