Authorities have seized $60 million worth of methamphetamine, infiltrating an alleged transnational criminal syndicate operating in Melbourne.
Australian Border Force officers detected an illicit substance inside a consignment of meat smokers flown into Melbourne from Cape Town in South Africa on January 4.
Forensic testing confirmed 81 kilograms of meth stashed inside 81 packages which were contained in three large boxes.
Authorities then executed search warrants at properties in St Albans and Sunshine North in Melbourne’s west on January 15.
Two men, aged 59 and 50, were arrested and appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on January 16, where they were remanded in custody.
The 59-year-old St Albans man was charged with importation of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug and attempted possession of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
The 50-year-old Sunshine North man was charged with attempted possession of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
More search warrants were also executed this week in Maribyrnong and Maidstone, where a 28-year-old and 57-year-old man, and a 48-year-old woman were arrested and later charged.
Authorities seized more than $600,000 in cash.
Some of the cash was found hidden in luxury handbags, which were allegedly thrown into a garden when police swarmed the properties.
Police also seized about 800 grams of suspected amphetamine and heroin, a quantity of unlawfully imported cigarettes, and jewellery suspected to be purchased from the proceeds of crime.
Acting Australian Federal Police Commander Jayne Crossling said the seized quantity of meth was “significant”.
“Today we have not only seized a significant amount of methamphetamine, but also prevented the harm it would have otherwise caused in the community,” she said.
“These criminals continue to prey on our community, causing drug-related crime and misery, along with associated health and social costs.
“It is a sad fact that some of those who buy drugs can put their habit ahead of putting food on the table for their families or other general living expenses.”
Victoria Police Detective Superintendent Jacqueline Curran said ice continued to be a driver for other crimes, such as property crime, theft, burglaries and robberies.
“Multiple people have been arrested as part of this operation and they now must face the full consequences of their actions” she said.
“We will continue to work closely with our partners in other law enforcement agencies to target drug traffickers and dismantle drug networks looking to inflict harm upon our community.”