Three people have been charged following the discovery of methamphetamine with a street value of more than $1 billion hidden in stereo speakers.
Police raided properties across Melbourne on Wednesday, from Elwood and Murrumbeena in the southeast, to Darley and Sunshine West in Melbourne’s north.
Two men, aged 37 and 38, and a 37-year-old woman, will face Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday on drug importation charges.
The drugs were found by Australian Border Force officers in Melbourne in April inside a sea cargo consignment during a sea cargo inspection at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility and hidden inside stereo speakers originating from Bangkok, Thailand.
The 1.6 tonne haul, equal to almost 16 million drug deals, is the largest ever onshore seizure of the drug and was uncovered earlier this year, according to Australian Federal Police.
In total, 1.596 tonnes of methamphetamine and 37 kilograms of heroin (a total of 1633 kgs) were detected with an estimated street value of $1.197b and $18.5m respectively.
The AFP said the seizure was the largest seizure of heroin in Australia since 2017.
AFP Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan said this was the largest ice haul in Australia to date and the largest seizure of heroin since 2017.
“Australian law enforcement agencies are committed to combatting the hold organised crime has on Australia to keep dangerous drugs off our streets and out of our homes,” he said.
“It will be alleged that two of the three suspects charged are trusted industry insiders, and that this joint operation has identified and removed serious vulnerabilities from the Melbourne waterfront – and we could not have done this without the support and assistance of the public.”
“In addition, under Taskforce Storm joint arrangements, the AFP has shared intelligence with Thai authorities on this matter in accordance with relevant guidelines, resulting in them conducting their own investigation, which is currently ongoing.”
Deputy Commissioner Gaughan said that these charges are extremely serious and should serve as yet another warning to those seeking to import illicit drugs.
“Australia is a lucrative market for drug traffickers only due to the amount of drugs consumed by the public and the price paid for those drugs. This is a social problem that is the responsibility of everyone to address,” he said.
“Police will continue to protect our communities and borders against exploitation by sophisticated criminal networks, but it is the responsibility of everyone to educate and support each other to stop the high use of drugs we see in Australian society.”
Australian Border Force Assistant Commissioner Enforcement Command Sharon Huey said case officers using x-ray technology “detected anomalies” inside the speakers, with the subsequent deconstruction of one allegedly revealing a number of vacuum sealed packages inside.
The three accused are each charged with one count of jointly importing a commercial quantity of methamphetamine and one count of jointly importing a commercial quantity of heroin.
The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment.