AUTHORITIES last year seized 882 kilograms of ketamine at Australia’s borders, an amount more than double the 415 kilograms intercepted in 2022. 

Ketamine is a sedative that can cause disorientation, memory loss, depression, seizures and even death.  

Australian Federal Police intelligence has identified transnational serious organised crime (TSOC) syndicates are using more sophisticated means to attempt to hide the illicit substance in a bid to evade law enforcement. 

TSOC costs Australia about $60 billion a year, according to the AFP, who has had its work cut out stopping the wave of ketamine coming in and hitting the streets. 

Last Friday (1 March) Australian Border Force officers allegedly found an estimated 20 kilograms of ketamine hidden in the suitcases of an 18-year-old UK man on his arrival at Sydney Airport.  

The incident was referred to the AFP and the teenager was charged with importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs. 

The man appeared before Downing Centre Local Court on the same day and was formally refused bail.  

He is next expected to appear at court on 1 May 2024. 

In July 2023, 84 kilograms of ketamine was hidden inside two new commercial vans on board a cargo ship destined for Sydney. 

ABF officers searched the ship when it stopped at Melbourne and allegedly found 79 plastic bags containing ketamine hidden inside the panels of two vehicles. 

Three men were charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs and their alleged involvement in the transnational crime syndicate and remain before the courts. 

In the same month the AFP, with the help of law enforcement partners, was responsible for the largest ketamine seizure in Australia after 145 kilograms of the drug was detected in Victoria. 

About 80 kilograms of the drug was allegedly concealed in 40 buckets of liquid micro cement which arrived in Melbourne by sea cargo. 

Three men have been charged in relation to the investigation and remain before the courts. 

In October, a Taiwanese national was charged after 250 grams of ketamine, contained in white and orange capsules inside two vitamin bottles, was allegedly found in his luggage. 

ABF officers searched the man at Brisbane Airport and allegedly detected the drugs, before handing over the matter to the AFP. 

The man was charged with attempting to import border controlled drugs and remains before the courts. 

AFP acting commander Kristy Scott said ketamine was a highly dangerous and addictive substance. 

“We’re reminding criminals that we not only seizing the drugs but arresting alleged offenders who are connected to the imports. We will continue to work to target your illicit operations, identify you and bring you to justice,” she said.

Despite the recent rise in ketamine importations, AFP intelligence indicates the drug market is much smaller compared to other Australian drug markets, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.