Mexican drug cartels used private planes to smuggle several tons of cocaine from the United States into Australia, press reports said Monday, citing U.S. judicial documents.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suspects that a Chicago gang linked to Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel smuggled an undetermined amount of cocaine monthly into Australia and flew the aircraft back to the United States loaded with cash, the AAP news agency reported.

About 10 percent of the money was the pilots' share, the DEA alleged in the Illinois case against Jose Mares-Barragan, a 31-year-old arrested on Jan. 22 and accused of being one of the gang's leaders, the AAP said, citing court documents.

Mexico's drug cartels have expanded into the lucrative cocaine business in Australia, the Australian Crime Commission said in a 2011 report.

Australians are among the world's top consumers of illegal drugs on a per capita basis and a kilo of cocaine can go for up to 100 times its South American price in Australia.

Some 80 percent of the cocaine entering Australia is produced in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

The cocaine is usually hidden in shipments of merchandise from ports in Colombia, Mexico and Panama, officials said.

The Sinaloa cartel, which is led by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, has large smuggling and distribution networks in South America, the United States and Europe. EFE