Police say they have crushed the Queensland chapter of a major criminal syndicate.

At least one Queensland government employee is allegedly part of a drug syndicate accused of smuggling $18 million worth of cannabis across the state in recent months.

Police allege the criminal network sourced cannabis from Victoria and distributed it to the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Townsville.

Detective Acting Superintendent Scott Knowles said at least 1.5 tonnes of cannabis had been transported in the last 12 months, with most of it flown to Brisbane’s airport.

He said the alleged offenders made more than 40 trips to Queensland from Victoria, packing up to 25 kilograms of drugs into suitcases.

“Given the security of the airport, it’s an interesting turn of events that they can bring this amount through,” he said.

“They secreted it quite well to avoid drug detection dogs.”

One or more Queensland government employees were involved but Supt Knowles declined to say which department they worked for.

“We did identify a link between this organisation and a person or persons in a government department,” he said.

“We have certainly closed down the Queensland chapter of this syndicate.”

The matter has been referred to Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission, which investigates criminal activity in the state’s public service.

The 12-month police operation – known as Kilo Zurich – seized cannabis and amphetamines, valued at more than $1 million and $222,500 in cash, and included investigations in NSW and Victoria.

It’s also alleged the syndicate had a $6 million portfolio of expensive real estate, heavy machinery, cars, boats and caravans, which have been confiscated.

A stash of stolen property came from a Guanaba home, on the Gold Coast hinterland, last month.

Twenty-one people from Queensland, NSW and Victoria have been arrested.

More than 40 charges have been laid, including trafficking dangerous drugs, supply of dangerous drugs, possession of dangerous drugs and drug utensils.

Police say more arrests are expected.

Extradition orders are being made for interstate offenders to face a Queensland court under the Newman government’s anti-bikie law, known as the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment legislation.