Music promoter Andrew McManus among five arrested over 'Mexico drug syndicate'

A high-profile music promoter, a Sydney solicitor and a known crime figure are among five men that have been arrested over alleged international drug trafficking and money laundering.

Music promoter Andrew McManus, 54, was arrested at Melbourne airport last night following a joint investigation between NSW Police and the United States FBI that started more than four years ago.

He has been charged with perverting the course of justice, two counts of intention to defraud by false or misleading statement and knowingly participate in criminal group.

Music promoter Andrew McManus was arrested at Melbourne airport last night. Source: Getty.

Sydney crime figure Craig Haeusler, Kings Cross solicitor Michael Croke and Auburn pastry shop owner Zeki Atilgan, were also arrested in Sydney earlier on Thursday night.


The international investigation, sparked by the discovery of a suitcase filled with more than $700,000 cash at Sydney's Hilton Hotel, also saw the FBI arrest US businessman Owen Hanson Jr while he was playing golf in San Diego.

The group allegedly gave the proceeds of their cocaine importation to a professional gambler working out of Sydney's Star Casino, who took the cheques and cashed them in Las Vegas casinos, NSW Police said on Friday.

Detective Superintendent Scott Cook told reporters in Sydney that "approximately $5 million had been laundered so far".

NSW detectives started investigating the alleged syndicate in August 2011 following the seizure of $702,000 cash which was found in a black suitcase at the Hilton Hotel.

Promoter Andrew McManus pictured with Miss Universe Australia 2008 Laura Dundovic at the Melbourne Cup carnival in 2008, was one of five men arrested for alleged international drug trafficking. Source: Getty.

Fairfax Media previously revealed that police were called to the hotel after an anonymous tip-off that the occupant of room 3026 in the Hilton Hotel had a gun.

The occupant - Sean Carolan, who previously ran the business Advanced Peptide Solutions with Hanson Jnr - didn't have the gun, only the bag of cash.

On the night, Mr Carolan claimed the money belonged to his business partner Hanson Jnr, who he said was investing in Mr Carolan's weight loss business. The money was confiscated, but Mr Carolan took action in the Supreme Court to have the money returned.

Andrew McManus, pictured with Chris Isaak in 2008, has been responsible for bringing Isaak, Aerosmith, KISS, Lenny Kravitz. Source: Getty.

When a court case was brought against NSW Police for the return of the cash, Mr McManus claimed the money was in fact the proceeds from a Lenny Kravitz tour.

Mr McManus went said he was repaying Hanson Jnr who had stumped up the deposit Mr McManus needed for a ZZ Top tour.

The Supreme Court ruled against Mr Carolan and Mr McManus and in late 2014 conducted raids in Sydney and Victoria, which netted $68,000 cash, drugs, steroids, documents and electronic equipment.

The operation also uncovered information regarding the alleged importation of 300kg of cocaine from Mexico to Australia via the US.

Since then, police have been investigating alleged drug trafficking between Mexico, the US and Australia, and associated money laundering.

One of the men being arrested by police at his Sydney home. Source: 7 News.

Australian Crime Commission NSW manager Warren Gray said "investigations like this one affirm the effectiveness of 'following the money'".

Police have charged Mr McManus with perverting the course of justice, two counts of intention to defraud by false or misleading statement and knowingly participate in criminal group. He was released on bail to appear in a Sydney court on October 14.

This man was arrested at Kellyville in Sydney as part of the operation yesterday. Source: 7 News.

Both Mr Croke, 65, and Mr Haeusler, 55, were charged with both those offences earlier on Thursday.

A raid at 32-year-old Mr Atilgan's Kellyville home allegedly resulted in the seizure of cash, steroids and cannabis. He was charged with two counts of money laundering.

The three men arrested in Sydney have been bailed to appear at Sydney courts at later dates.

NSW police are also expected to apply for the extradition of Mr McManus from Melbourne and Mr Hanson Jnr. from the US.

Hanson Jr will appear before a judge in the US District Court in San Diego on Friday to apply for bail.

NSW Police will seek to have the 33-year-old extradited to Sydney on arrest warrants for money laundering, perverting the course of justice and intent to defraud by false or misleading statement, as well as an additional charge of supplying a large commercial quantity of drugs.

Morning news break – September 11