SYDNEY (AP) – Australia has made its largest ever bust of crystal methamphetamine, with police Wednesday estimating the haul hidden among planks of wood from China had a street value of nearly Aus$900 million (US$680 million).
Two men were arrested and charged with trafficking after the discovery of 903 kilograms (nearly a ton) of ice at a warehouse in the Victorian state suburb of Nunawading, east of Melbourne, where it was hidden in 70 boxes of floorboards.
“Make no mistake, the swift action of our law enforcement agencies has stopped an unprecedented tsunami of ice from hitting our streets with a deadly impact,” said Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
The bust, following a two-month operation, comes less than a week after police and customs officers arrested three Vietnamese nationals in Melbourne and seized 300 kilograms of ice hidden in metal gates.
Authorities also had success in December when they made the largest cocaine haul in Australian history.
With its high street prices, Australia is an attractive destination for drug-smugglers, with Keenan saying that a kilogram of ice can sell for 80 times the price it is bought for in China.
“When the Australian drug market remains so lucrative, organized criminals will continue to try and bring supply in.
We are determined to tackle the demand side,” he said.
Australia has a growing problem with ice addiction and the government recently earmarked Aus$300 million for rehabilitation and education services to help address the issue.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hailed the “enormous” seizure and hit out the “merchants of death.”
“We are working internationally and nationally to catch these merchants of death, these people who traffic in ice, to catch them and intercept their deadly cargoes and we’re successful in doing that,” he said. “We will be ruthless in our efforts to stop the smuggling and the trafficking of this drug.”
Australia’s previous largest haul of ice was almost 880 kilograms seized in Sydney in November 2014. The country’s largest seizure of cocaine was made in February when a yacht was intercepted off the east coast carrying 1.4 tonnes of the drug. (With reports from AFP)
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