LAW enforcement officers have reported the seizure of more than 1.7 tonnes of methylamphetamine (ice) the largest shipment bound for Australia and the largest ever domestic seizure in the US.
Hidden in two shipping containers, the drugs are said to equate to more than 17m drug deals and have an estimated street value of $1.29bn.
Officers from the Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police arrested six people in Victoria and NSW allegedly involved with the US-based organised crime syndicate.
The investigation began from intelligence gathered by the Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce about a planned large-scale drug importation from a syndicate in California.
The Victorian JOCTF comprises the AFP, Victoria Police, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Department of Home Affairs.
The Victorian JOCTF also enlisted the support of U.S authorities who found a consignment suspected of containing illicit drugs before it left American shores.
US authorities found more than 1.7 tonnes of various illicit drugs – largely methylamphetamine – inside two large containers purporting to contain audio equipment.
The drugs were seized in California in early January.
The shipment included the following drugs:
- 1728kg of methylamphetamine;
- 25 kilograms of cocaine;
- 5 kilograms of heroin, worth an estimated AUD $2.6m.
The previous record seizure of methylamphetamine bound for Australia was 1.3 tonnes, seized in Western Australia in December 2017.
As a result of extensive investigations to identify the alleged syndicate connections in Australia, the JOCTF raided premises in several Melbourne suburbs, resulting in the arrest of two US nationals and two Australians.
These included a 52-year-old American man and 46-year-old American woman based in Woodstock (Victoria) and a 31-year-old man and 29-year-old female based in Keilor Downs.
Three of those arrested are scheduled to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court today, to face the following charge:
- Attempt to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs;
One of those arrested will also face a charge of:
- Possession of a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs.
The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment.
Police also raided premises in the Sydney suburbs of Bonyyrigg Heights, Mount Pritchard and Hinchinbrook, arresting two Australians and seizing two kilos of cocaine in Hinchinbrook.
Those arrested include a 25-year-old Bonnyrigg Heights man and a 31-year-old Hinchinbrook man who were charged with the following:
Authorities are to seek to have the men extradited to Victoria to face court in the coming days.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Organised Crime Bruce Hill said the JOCTF investigation showed the effectiveness of Australian and international authorities working together.
“This is the biggest ever seizure of methylamphetamine – more than 1.7 tonnes – stopped before it had a chance to reach Australian streets. By stopping this, we have ensured criminals will not profit from the immense pain these drugs would have caused our community,” AC Hill said.
“I wish to thank our U.S. counterparts for their expert involvement in this investigation and strong support of our efforts to keep these drugs off Australian shores.”