31 Jul 2012

Massive 'half tonne' drug haul in Australia

11:07 pm on 31 July 2012

Australian police say they have smashed a $A500 million Hong Kong-based drug ring that was smuggling half a tonne of heroin and crystal methamphetamine into Australia.

Officers arrested four men from Hong Kong at an apartment in central Sydney on Monday, and three Australian residents, also Hong Kong nationals, in Sydney's west, the ABC reports.

They say 306kg of crystal meth, or ice, and 252kg of heroin were found hidden in 100 terracotta pots inside shipping containers during a raid at Port Botany nearly two weeks ago.

The containers had been shipped to Australia from Thailand.

Mike Pezzullo of Australia's Customs and Border Protection says the pots were stuffed with a cement, putty-like substance to try to hide the narcotics.

"The actual concealment itself wasn't particularly sophisticated - terracotta pots concealed in bulk on palates within cardboard boxes and then shrink-wrapped," he told the ABC.

The Australian Federal Police say the ice haul is the largest ever seized in Australia, while the heroin shipment is the third largest.

Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin says the haul was valued at up to $A500 million, and was the culmination of an 11-month investigation.

The arrested men are charged with conspiring to import and trying to possess the drugs. They were refused bail when they appeared in the Central Local Court on Tuesday.

Police say they have been watching the syndicate for nearly a year following a tip-off from the US Drug Enforcement Agency.