TWO Iranians have been charged with smuggling some 250 kilograms of methamphetamine in several cargo consignments last month.
The Australian Federal Police estimate the drugs to be worth about $187 million.
The AFP arrested a 30-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman in Sydney on 8 and 9 January. They were denied bail.
A Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce investigation was initiated when Australian Border Force detected about 100 kilograms of methamphetamines hidden in a consignment of kitchen bench tops in December.
The bench tops were sent to Melbourne from Iran and were destined for delivery to an address in Endeavour Hills, Victoria.
The consignment was allegedly transported by the syndicate to a warehouse in Lakemba, New South Wales in early January. Police allege the warehouse was being used as a clandestine laboratory to extract and process the methamphetamine.
The investigation uncovered several importations associated with the syndicate. This includes two consignments containing about 60 kilograms of methamphetamine arriving into Melbourne, and another consignment arriving into Sydney with about 30 kilograms of the drug. The Sydney consignment contained chandeliers.
The AFP raided a warehouse in Lakemba and residences in Blacktown, Merrylands, and Doonside on 8 and 9 January, where officers arrested a 30-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman.
They have been charged with importing a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Further arrests in relation to the investigation are expected.
Acting commander of investigations, AFP Eastern Command Geoff Turner said Australians are among the highest per capita users of methamphetamines.
“The flow-on effects from the actions of organised crime in our community are real. This investigation uncovered a potentially dangerous clandestine laboratory operating in a Sydney suburb, which we have now shut down,” Mr Turner said.
“The AFP and its partners are working hard to protect the Australian community by outsmarting organised crime. These arrests show it does not matter when or where criminals operate, they will find themselves the subject of our investigations if they seek to import and traffic in illegal drugs.”
Acting ABF commander port operations south Ranj Maharaj said the detection demonstrated the high level of skill possessed by ABF officers in locating illicit drugs – no matter how sophisticated the concealment.
“No concealment is too tough for our officers, they have seen it all, and have advanced technology at their disposal to identify these illicit substances no matter how criminals try to hide them,” Acting Commander Maharaj said.
“Methamphetamine has a devastating effect on the community every single day. The ABF will continue working closely with its domestic and international partners, to identify and prosecute those involved in attempting to import it into Australia.”
The JOCTF is comprised of investigators from the AFP, ABF, Victoria Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, along with members from the Department of Home Affairs.