OVER the past year, the Australian Federal Police have seized more than 2.1 tonnes of so-called tea-packet methamphetamine.

According to the AFP, criminal syndicates have adopted tea package designs to reflect the source and purity of methamphetamine.

The AFP estimates the illicit drugs intercepted this year have a “street value” of more than $1 billion.

In April, a Melbourne woman was charged with allegedly attempting to import 400 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in tea packets from Malaysia.

The AFP estimates the methamphetamine to have had a “street value” of at least $360 million.

The investigation launched in 2021 after the Royal Malaysian Customs Department seized the 400 kilograms of illicit drugs at Kuala Lumpur International Airport addressed to a Melbourne address.

The drugs were concealed in Guanyinwang tea packets.

In September 2020, three criminal syndicate members imported 180 kilograms of methamphetamine into Sydney via Malaysia in vacuum-sealed tea packets.

In October this year, these three members were sentenced to jail terms of between seven and 10 years.

And in 2019, three people (two men and a woman) were charged with allegedly importing 1.596 tonnes of methamphetamine and 37 kilograms of heroin.

The drugs were concealed in stereo speakers in a sea-cargo consignment detected by Australian Border Force officers at Melbourne Container Examination Facility.

Police estimate the drugs had a “street value” of $1.197 billion and $18.5 million, respectively. The container had originated from Bangkok, Thailand. These drugs were also vacuumed sealed in Guanyinwang tea packets.

The AFP has identified Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia as the top-five countries contributing to the importation of tea-packet methamphetamine seized.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Tim Knight, a senior officer posted to Malaysia, said the AFP was working closely with South East Asian authorities to disrupt criminal syndicates trafficking methamphetamine.

“The strong co-operation between the AFP and international law enforcement partners have resulted in significant disruption activities across South East Asia,” Det Acting Supt Knight said.

“The AFP is currently working to identify and block new transhipment routes utilised by criminals to move their product to the consumer market.”

The AFP said South East Asian manufactured methamphetamine remains high in purity relative to other production regions, including Mexico, the Middle East and Central Asia regions. Criminal groups will adopt and modify methods of importation, including both international sea and airfreight, in attempt to avoid law enforcement detection.

Myanmar has been known as the predominant location for manufacture, the AFP said.

Significant efforts made by law enforcement agencies have led to the disruption of methamphetamine laboratories within the Shan State in Myanmar, according to the AFP.