AUTHORITIES uncovered 295 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden inside an excavator imported through Port Botany, sparking an investigation led by the Australian Federal Police.

Police raided the Sydney homes of three men on Tuesday, charging them with offences relating to drug smuggling.

AFP investigators, forensic specialists and Australia Border Force officers examined the excavator after it arrived at Port Botany from Hong Kong on 27 July and allegedly found a concealment containing a crystalline substance hidden in part of the machinery.

Tests showed the substance to be 295 kilograms of methamphetamine. Police estimate the haul to be worth about $184 million.

Police allege the drugs were concealed within layers of concrete, steel and lead in an effort to avoid detection.

AFP officers removed the drugs and delivered the excavator to a business premises in Penrith in western Sydney in early August.

Drugs in the digger. Image: AFP, ABF

Two weeks later, the excavator was moved to a premises in Arndell Park, where the three men arrested this week allegedly examined the consignment.

Police will allege two of the men, aged 26 and 30, spent several days attempting to access the concealment within the excavator.

They allegedly purchased tools from a nearby hardware store to cut into the machinery.

Ongoing investigations resulted in search warrants on 19 October 2021 at residences in Prospect, Merrylands and Rydalmere. During the search warrants police seized more than $200,000, as well as encrypted communications devices and multiple kilograms of cannabis.

ABF Commander, port operations east, Susan Drennan said intercepting this large quantity of methamphetamine at the border is a great result, preventing criminal profits and harm to the Australian community.

“Our officers continue to prove, time and time again, that criminals who attempt to conceal these substances will be caught. We have the technological capability to detect these drugs and other illicit goods no matter how well they are concealed, and our officers can see further into these types of shipments than ever before,” Commander Drennan said.

“ABF officers work every day to detect and disrupt these types of criminal operations. Criminals should know that regardless of their concealment methods, we will detect them and bring those responsible to justice.”

Acting Commander Matthew Ciantar said this investigation strikes a significant blow to organised criminal groups operating in Australia.

“The Australian public should rest assured that the AFP and its partner agencies are committed to keeping the community safe. We will continue to use every resource available to disrupt and bring to justice people attempting to flood our communities with these dangerous drugs,” Acting Commander Ciantar said.

“Had this drug seizure made its way to Australian streets, countless lives would have been affected. Methamphetamine causes extensive harm to users and the wider community – including health care workers and the families that are torn apart.

“Our investigation remains ongoing into everyone involved in the importation and planned distribution.”