​NATIONAL Anti-Gangs Squad (NAGS) officers have charged a second person in New South Wales over the attempted importation of about 27.5 kilograms of phenylethylamine HCL, an analogue of amphetamine.

The man, 31, appeared in Liverpool Local Court on Wednesday (25 January) over the 2022 importation plot.

Operation Highfields began in October 2022 after Australian Border Force officers in Sydney allegedly found the illicit substance in an air cargo consignment.

Phenylethylamine HCL has a similar chemical structure to amphetamine and can be used as a cutting agent for illicit stimulants.

A Sydney woman was charged over the attempted importation in November 2022, after a NAGS team – which consists of AFP and NSW Police officers – raided her home in Wentworthville.

As a result of ongoing inquiries, NAGS officers arrested the second person, a 31-year-old man his Ashcroft home on 20 January 2023.

He was charged with two counts of attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.

Police allege the substance was imported on behalf of a Middle Eastern organised crime group operating out of Sydney.

ABF Acting Commander Matthew O’Connor said the ABF is committed to working with law enforcement partners to make it as hard as possible for serious and organised crime groups to make money from the importation of illicit drugs.

“We know the methods criminals use to import illicit drugs are constantly evolving. That’s why our officers use world-leading skills, technology and intelligence analysis to stay one step ahead at all times,” A/g Commander O’Connor said.

“The Australian border is our first and most important line of defence for the community. That’s why ABF officers are so highly trained, and work day and night to keep these dangerous substances off the streets.”

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Carly Smith said organised criminals would try every avenue to profit off the high demand for illicit drugs in Australia.

“They may substitute substances like this for amphetamines, or mix it in with amphetamines to boost the volume of the product and their illegal profits,” Det A/Supt Smith said.

“Every cent organised criminals gain from an illicit drug sale takes them one step closer to funding their next big criminal venture.

“The AFP works closely with its law enforcement partners to identify these criminal groups and ensure they don’t have the means to harm more Australians.”

NSW Police Force State Crime Command’s Criminal Groups Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Grant Taylor, said our collaborative efforts will continue to stop many of these organised criminal groups.

“Our shared intelligence allows us to work alongside our partner agencies to stop these criminals from bringing these harmful drugs to our shores,” Det Supt Taylor said.

“It’s through these joint investigations under the National Anti-Gangs Squad that we can target and identify any person who is involved in these criminal enterprises – we will find you and bring you before the courts.

“We want to hit them where it hurts – their profits, this activity is not welcome in NSW.”

NAGS investigators are continuing their investigation into this importation and the potential uses of this substance. Further arrests have not been ruled out.

The woman arrested for this attempted importation is scheduled to next appear in Parramatta Local Court on 10 March 2023.