SYDNEY (AP) – Authorities have found 1.8 metric tonnes of methamphetamine hidden in marble tiles shipped from the Middle East to Sydney in what police describe as the largest-ever seizure of the illicit drug in Australia.
Three men were arrested after 748 kilogrammes of the drug were found early this month hidden in 24 containers that arrived at Port Botany, officials said on Friday.
Another 1,060 kilogrammes of meth were found in 19 containers that arrived at the same port last week. The drugs were hidden in the same method and were all shipped from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Police estimate the meth’s street value at AUD1.6 billion (USD1.1 billion), which reflects the higher prices that Australians pay for illicit drugs than users do in many comparable countries.
Detective Chief Superintendent John Watson described the quantity of meth as “staggering”.
“This seizure will be felt for weeks to come by many high-, mid- and lower-level suppliers,” Watson said. No further arrests have been made since last week’s seizure. Investigators have turned their attention to identifying the overseas suppliers. “The Middle Eastern region is probably our main focus,” Watson said. “But I certainly wouldn’t restrict our investigation to just that region.”
All the containers were destined to be sent to a factory in western Sydney that had been set up to quickly extract meth from marble, Watson said. Police do not know how often the factory had been used.
The three men already arrested – aged 24, 26 and 34 – face potential life sentences in prison if convicted of drug trafficking. They have appeared in court and have been refused bail.