Australia Charges 6 Linked to $1.7 Bn in Meth Shipments
Australian police on Thursday charged six individuals linked to a multi-billion dollar transnational drug syndicate, with reported seizures from three busts alone totaling AUD$1.7 billion (US$1.17 billion) in methamphetamine.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) and international police agencies allege the drug ring sought to smuggle in six tonnes of liquid methamphetamine. That amount, police said, equates to 19 million individual street deals and AUD$1.7 billion in illegal profits.
“Every single deal has the potential to cause death or serious harm, not to mention the devastating impacts on families affected by illicit drug use and the significant healthcare system costs,” said Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill.
Police gave particular attention to two of the six alleged conspirators. Both men face a potential sentence of life imprisonment.
The first, a 38-year-old male from Melbourne, allegedly acted “as a conduit for an organized crime network in Canada,” investigators said. They also suspect him to be “the primary onshore facilitator” for an attempted drug shipment into Australia.
The second, a 32-year-old male, also from Melbourne, is alleged to be a “professional facilitator” for drug traffickers and used his expertise in logistics to organize the transport of large quantities of methamphetamine, police said.
In fact, police say, Canadian and New Zealand authorities discovered the drugs before they could be shipped. The narcotics were then seized and replaced with harmless substances so that police could follow the shipments and identify the Australian members of the syndicate upon delivery.
As part of the international investigation, authorities tracked large shipments of seemingly innocuous canola oil as a red flag for drug trafficking activity.
In January of this year, Canadian authorities uncovered 2,900 liters of liquid methamphetamine, bound for Australia, in canola oil bottles. That amount, police said, has an estimated street value of AUD$720 million ($495.7 million), and would’ve caused “close to two and a half billion dollars’ worth of social harm,” citing drug harm index figures.
That same month, New Zealand police seized 713 kg of crystal methamphetamine; authorities linked the drugs to the same group that trafficked them through Australia.
And in May and June, Canada made two more seizures totalling 3225 liters of liquid methamphetamine. Again, the narcotics were disguised as bottles of canola oil, but in fact would’ve generated AUD$798 million ($549.5 million) for the traffickers.
Nina Patel, Director General of the Pacific Region for the Canada Border Services Agency, said that British Columbia officers alone have “seized more than 6,330 kg of methamphetamine over six months, all destined for Australia.”
Rounding out the six are three other Australian nationals and an American. They are charged with importing and trafficking controlled substances.
Further arrests are expected, police said.
Dr. Alison Money, Chief Medical Officer for the AFP, highlighted the numerous damage narcotics inflict on society.
“Every day, on average, 40 people are admitted to Australian hospitals from methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine use,’’ she said. “Every week, on average, 16 Australians die from heroin, amphetamine or cocaine overdose.”
The seizure, Assistant Commissioner Hill said, “is an extraordinary blow to organized crime. We will not stop. Our job is to protect this community and we will relentlessly target whoever seeks to harm it.”