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Australia seizes $2.8-B haul of meth chemical

SYDNEY (AFP) – Enough chemicals to make A$3.6 billion (US$2.8 billion) of pure methamphetamine, a highly-addictive drug known as ice, has been seized by Australian authorities, they said Friday.

The 3.9-ton haul of liquid ephedrine, concealed in a shipment of green tea bottles from Thailand, is the biggest bust of the illegal substance in Australian history.

Australia has the world’s highest per capita consumption of crystal meth and the country has become an increasingly attractive destination for drug-smugglers, with street prices soaring.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said 350kg of meth hidden in buckets of plaster from Thailand had also been intercepted in two operations carried out by police and border forces over the past three weeks.

“The linked and simultaneous investigations began with information originating from Thai authorities about suspected large-scale imports of illicit drugs into Sydney,” he said.

Two people were arrested over the ephedrine bust, which the government said was enough to produce 3.6 tons of ice, and another for the meth. Their nationalities were not given.

Methamphetamine use in Australia has tripled in the past five years.