Four alleged members of a transnational criminal syndicate operating in Melbourne have been charged following the seizure of more than 560 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine, the largest importation in Victorian history.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP), with assistance from Australian Border Force (ABF) and Victoria Police commenced an operation on 11 November, 2020, after ABF officials detected the illicit substance stashed inside a large consignment of mustard bottles flown into Melbourne via air cargo from Chicago, USA.
AFP Crime Scenes conducted further forensic testing on the consignment and confirmed that more than 1600 of the plastic mustard bottles within two pallets contained liquid methamphetamine.
The estimated street value of 560 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine is more than $123 million dollars.
AFP investigators, with assistance from Victoria Police, arrested the four alleged criminal syndicate members and conducted search warrants across a number of Melbourne properties on Friday (20 November, 2020) and across the weekend.
On Friday morning a 29-year old Sunshine man was arrested at a Campbellfield home. While a second man, a 28-year-old from St. Albans was also arrested at his home.
A 34-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman were arrested at their Albion property, with investigators seizing several kilograms of suspected illicit drugs at the scene.
Additional search warrants were conducted throughout Friday at locations in St Albans, Sunshine and Sunshine North, along with commercial properties in Parkville and Sunshine.
AFP investigators then identified the location of a clandestine laboratory allegedly linked to the criminal syndicate and the largest import of liquid methamphetamine in Victoria.
Victoria Police Clandestine Laboratory Squad members secured the scene at a St. Albans property on Saturday (21 November, 2020), before AFP members executed a search warrant on Sunday (22 November, 2020).
The 29-year-old Sunshine man has been charged with importing commercial quantities of border controlled drugs and attempted possession of border controlled drugs.
The 34-year-old Albion man and the 28-year-old St Albans man have both been charged with attempting to possess commercial quantities of border controlled drugs.
The 34-year-old Albion woman is facing a charge of possession of a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs.
The group faced the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Friday night (20 November) and were remanded to reappear again on Tuesday, 24 November, 2020.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Southern Command Bruce Giles said the record seizure was another clear warning to criminal syndicates that the AFP and its Commonwealth and state law enforcement partners remained one step ahead.
“Today we have stopped what is Victoria’s largest liquid methamphetamine haul, dead in its tracks,” he said.
“These criminals continue to prey on our community, causing drug–related crime and misery, along with associated health and social costs.”
“This operation shows that the AFP, together with our Commonwealth and state law enforcement partners are keeping a watch on every corner.
“We remain tirelessly committed to keeping up the fight to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in this type of activity.”
Victoria Police Crime Command Assist Commissioner Bob Hill said this was another significant result for the Victorian community.
“This is about law enforcement agencies working together to prevent the immense harm that serious and organised crime groups, regardless of where they are based across the world, wreak locally,” he said.
“We are continuing to see groups prepared to take the risk of importing these drugs and so I can absolutely assure the community that you will continue to see police deliberately target that criminality.
“This is about stopping the accessibility of this drug and holding offenders to account, so the fact we have not only been able to seize such a large amount of liquid methamphetamine but also arrest four offenders is especially satisfying.”
ABF Assistant Commissioner South and Enforcement Command Phil Brezzo, said sophisticated targeting methodologies and officer intuition has led to the disruption of a major criminal syndicate attempting to exploit vulnerable members of the Australian Community.
“Countless lives have just been saved from drug related devastation, as a direct result of targeting high risk consignments and ABF officer’s skill and dedication on the front line,” Assistant Commissioner Brezzo said.
“This record meth seizure demonstrates the effectiveness of our relationship with law enforcement agencies here in Victoria and around Australia.”