Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Five arrested over $101 million crystal meth haul from China
FEDERAL police have seized a swag of crystal methamphetamine worth an estimated $101 million.
Five men have been charged over allegedly attempting to traffic more than 100kg of the prohibited drug, also known as ice.
FP Detective Acting Superintendent Luke Needham said Chinese authorities tipped them off before seizing the drug stockpile that was hidden inside the floor of a shipping container. The container, which was also being used to send two tonnes of steel, was then shipped to Australian law enforcement agencies before being forwarded to an address in Revesby, in Sydney’s southwest.
A 22-year-old Fijian man who accepted the delivery was arrested on February 24.
“Safe to say he was very surprised,” Det Needham told reporters in Sydney today.
Two other men - a 38-year-old Australian and a 42-year-old from Hong Kong - were also arrested that day.
A further two men were arrested in China’s Guangdong Province “in mid-March”, Det Needham said.
He would not say when the investigation began, but referred to it as “long and ongoing”.
Those arrested in Australia have already faced court and will reappear in Sydney’s Central Local Court on April 26.
All three men have been charged with attempting to import and possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
Asked about the delay between the arrests and the release of the information, Det Needham cited “ongoing inquiries” and said the two men had “only just” been arrested in China.
Det Needham denied the announcement was delayed until after the departure of the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, who had been visiting Australia until Sunday.
He emphasised the high level of co-operation between Chinese and Australian law enforcement bodies.
“It can’t be underestimated, the intelligence-sharing,” Det Needham said. Police have not ruled out conducting further search warrants in Australia.
This is the latest win in the ongoing war against ice by Australian and Chinese authorities.
Last November, the taskforce busted a $54 million ice operation on Sydney’s exclusive Northern Beaches.
Authorities swooped on Palm Beach, seizing three barrels containing about 90 litres of liquid methamphetamine. A fishing vessel off the coast of Hervey Bay in Queensland was also intercepted.
Eight people were arrested for their alleged roles in that importation venture.
Since November 2015 almost 7.5 tonnes of illicit substances, including crystal methamphetamine, or ice, have been confiscated, worth an estimated street value of $2 billion.
Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said organised crime “knows no borders”, and the co-operation between Australia and China occurring as a result of the taskforce’s work was paying “substantial dividends”.
The intelligence exchange was crucial to identifying syndicates and individuals exporting crystal methamphetamine from China, he said.
“This is the first ever joint agency taskforce of its kind in the world and is proving to be as successful as it is unprecedented,” Mr Keenan told the Herald Sun.
“Together, our countries are disrupting the trade of organised criminals that peddle in the misery of drug trafficking.”