POLICE have charged two members of an alleged transnational criminal syndicate with drug smuggling offences after authorities seized about 300 kilograms of methamphetamine.
The Victoria Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) arrested the two men following an investigation into a Melbourne-based Chinese/Taiwanese syndicate suspected of importing border-controlled drugs.
Police charged a Burwood VIC man and a Ferntree Gully man, both 33, each with three offences related to smuggling a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
A statement from the police said the offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Police will allege the men are linked to an importation of 78 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden inside a shipment of surfboards, which arrived into Melbourne via air cargo from Los Angeles, on 11 August.
Australian Border Force officers identified anomalies in the consignment during an x-ray screening and reported the matter to the AFP.
The AFP found a white crystalline substance concealed within resin inside 12 surfboards. Forensic testing of the substance returned a positive result for methamphetamine.
The AFP replaced the illicit drugs with an inert substance and facilitated a controlled delivery to a storage unit in Dandenong South on 23 August.
The Burwood man and a NSW man collected the consignment from the storage unit on Friday, 25 August, 2023.
The NSW man then loaded the 12 surfboards into a vehicle and drove them to his house in the Sydney suburb of Punchbowl.
The Burwood man and Ferntree Gully man also attended a storage unit in the Melbourne suburb of Preston on 30 August and unloaded two pallets of boxes from a second consignment.
On the same day, JOCTF members executed a search warrant and seized the consignment, which contained silicon moulds that police suspected were impregnated with methamphetamine.
Police said impregnating illicit substances into material is a unique concealment method and extraction can be a complex process.
AFP forensics officers estimate this second consignment contains between 200 and 300 kilograms of methamphetamine.
Forensic testing has confirmed the presence of methamphetamine, however, due to the nature of the concealment, additional testing is required to determine its amount and purity.
Police arrested the men on 5 September in the Melbourne suburbs of Burwood and Ferntree Gully.
JOCTF members also raided the two homes of the accused where they found evidence of the imports.
Police also raided the home in Punchbowl, where police located and seized the boxes containing the surfboards.
AFP Detective Superintendent Jason McArthur said: “This seizure demonstrates the importance of collaboration between law enforcement partners to disrupt attempts by organised crime to import illicit drugs into Victoria and profit at the expense of the community”.
ABF acting Superintendent Felicity Wicks said ABF officers are vigilant to the methods organised crime groups use to try to illegally import drugs into the country.
“Criminals attempt to use all kinds of crafty ways to circumvent our officers at the border but detections like this one show that we are yet again a step ahead,” A/g Supt Wicks said.
“The ABF is committed to protecting the community from harmful drugs and working closely with our law enforcement partners to stop the tide of methamphetamine coming into Australia.”