Skip to main content

Australian police make record meth seizure

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 11:12 AM EST, Thu February 28, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Authorities seize more than half a ton of methamphetamine in Sydney
  • Police arrest three men, including a Singaporean and a Hong Kong citizen
  • "Make no mistake, this is a hideous, insidious drug," a police official says

(CNN) -- It all started with a simple phone call.

But the result, Australian police say, is by far their largest seizure of methamphetamine -- as much as $450 million (438 million Australian dollars) worth of the destructive drug, shipped from southern China and caught in Sydney.

Police have arrested three men in the operation -- an Australian, a Singaporean and a Hong Kong citizen -- and say they believe the bust has thrown a major international crime syndicate into disarray. More arrests could follow, they add.

The complex operation involved multiple law enforcement agencies and months of monitoring shipments coming into Sydney. But the key to the whole process was a call five months ago from a member of the public in New South Wales to the state's Asian Crime Squad, police said.

"That one phone call was the one thread that allowed us to pull and unravel a syndicate that will be stopped forever," New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said at a news conference Thursday.

Australian authorities found the drugs in Sydney last week, hidden among bags of chemicals for cleaning products in a container from the southern Chinese trading hub of Shenzhen, according to police.

A big haul of 'ice'

In total, authorities seized 585 kilograms (more than half a ton) of methamphetamine, also known as ice. That is almost twice as big as their previous record haul of the drug, which took place in July.

After confiscating the drugs, police replaced them with an "inert substance," and delivered them to a warehouse in Sydney, said Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus.

Drug lab

According to Negus, the three suspects arrived at the warehouse Wednesday, removed what they thought were the drugs and were then arrested.

They have been charged with multiple offenses -- including attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug -- for which the maximum penalty is life in prison and a fine of 1.275 million Australian dollars.

Police say they also found a clandestine drug manufacturing laboratory during the operation.

Officials described the bust as an important victory in the fight against the thriving trade of methamphetamine in Australia.

"Make no mistake, this is a hideous, insidious drug," Scipione said.

"It's the one drug that we know is so popular across Australia that we need to continue to do all we can to take it out of circulation," he added.

In 2012: Australian police seize $526 million worth of meth and heroin

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Sat July 19, 2014
Children and youth are often the victims of the violence in Gaza. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports.
updated 11:07 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
shakespeare moon illustration
It's been 45 years since the first moon landing. And still the giant rock continues to intrigue.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Nelson Mandela
21 ICONS has captured intimate portraits of some of South Africa's most celebrated. Founder Adrian Steirn reveals the story behind the images.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Yoga, meditation and watching a snake eat a frog alive: these are some of the experiences to be had at this Himalayan yoga retreat.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Just a few weeks ago, a boy tied to a bus stop in Mumbai barely received a glance from passersby. Now, he has a home, thanks to a local NGO.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT