Australian police have busted a multinational drug smuggling enterprise involving a big shipment of ecstasy with a street value of $61 million.
The Australian Border Force (ABF) announced on Tuesday that it had arrested two men for allegedly smuggling 645 kilograms of MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) hidden inside hundreds of aluminium barbecues following a six-month investigation in three countries: Cyprus, Australia and the UK.
The case began when the Cyprus Drug Law Enforcement Unit tipped off the ABF about a large haul of ecstasy in a container shipping from Limassol to Sydney in July. The United Kingdom National Crime Agency was also involved in the investigation of the haul.
The investigation revealed that 200 aluminium barbecues concealed multiple packages of drugs which were replaced for an inert substance and delivered to a Matraville warehouse in Sydney, where the drugs sat for more than three months before being gradually shipped to another warehouse in Sydney in late October.
Police arrested a 33-year-old Canadian suspect who arrived in Sydney on 10 December to visit the warehouse and was arrested on Monday in Brisbane, and is expected to be extradited to NSW.
An Australian suspect, a 30-year-old Queenslander, was also arrested at Bondi Junction carrying $300,000 in cash on him and 3.5 kg of cocaine. The names of the suspects were not disclosed by police, and they both face the maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted.
The investigation is ongoing and could lead to further arrests, said the ABF.
NSW Regional Commander for NSW Danielle Yannopoulos said in a statements that the arrests come as the ABF invests heavily in new technologies that allow officers to see further into shipping containers than ever before.
“Just this year we’ve found illicit substances in professionally manufactured car parts, fridges, furniture, and even an excavator,” she said.
The drug MDMA, known as ecstasy or molly, is the drug at the centre of a recent spate of music festival deaths in Australia. Police hope the seizure will have an impact on public safety, especially ahead of the summer music festival season.