Authorities have found 1.8 metric tons (2 U.S. tons) 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 kilograms (1,649 pounds) of the drug were found early this month hidden in 24 containers that arrived at Port Botany, officials said on Friday.
Another 1,060 kilograms (2,337 pounds) 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.
In this photo released on Aug. 26, 2022, by the New South Wales Police Force marble tiles are stored in a facility in Sydney, Australia. Authorities have found 1.8 metric tons (2 U.S. tons) of methamphetamine hidden in the tiles shipped from the Middle East.
New South Wales Police via AP
Police estimate the meth’s street value at 1.6 billion Australian dollars ($1.1 billion), which reflects the higher prices that Australians pay for illicit drugs than users do in many comparable countries.
Police Detective Chief Supt. 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.
“The audacity of these individuals to think they could import such vast quantities of harmful drugs into Australia is astounding,” Australian Border Force Assistant Commissioner Erin Dale said. “Let’s be clear: this is the largest seizure of methylamphetamine at the Australian border and therefore a massive blow to organized criminals.”
Australia’s previous record meth haul was 1.6 metric tons (1.8 U.S. tons) hidden in speakers and shipped into Melbourne from Bangkok in April 2019. Three Melbourne residents were charged with drug offenses.
The discovery marks the latest in a string of large-scale meth seizures across the globe.
Earlier this month, Mexican soldiers seized almost 1.5 tons of meth and 328 pounds of apparent powdered fentanyl at a checkpoint in the northern state of Sonora.
Last month, more than 5,000 pounds of meth was found in a record-breaking seizure in Southern California.