Australian authorities have seized the second largest heroin shipment ever detected in Australia after intercepting 336kg of the illicit drug inside a shipment sent from Malaysia to Brisbane.
A Sydney man, 55, who allegedly collected the consignment in Brisbane and transported it to New South Wales has been arrested and charged following a joint AFP and Australian Border Force (ABF) operation.
The man, who lives in Auburn, has been charged with:
- One count of importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely heroin, contrary to section 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth): and
- One count of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely heroin, contrary to section 307.5(1) and subsection 11.5 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
The maximum penalty for both offences is life imprisonment.
The man faced Parramatta Local Court on Saturday (1 April) and was remanded in custody to reappear tomorrow (5 April).
The heroin, which has an estimated street value of $268.8 million, is the largest amount of this illicit drug ever seized in Queensland and represents more than a third of Australia’s annual heroin consumption*.
ABF officers detected the illicit drugs inside two concrete blocks, each weighing about 500kg, that were marked as solar panel accessories inside a sea freight container addressed to an industrial lot in Brendale, north of Brisbane.
The shipment arrived on 13 March, 2023, at the Port of Brisbane, where ABF officers examined the container and identified hundreds of packages hidden within cement blocks that made up part of the consignment.
Testing on the substance within those packages returned a presumptive result for heroin.
AFP investigators and ABF officers drilled into the concrete blocks and removed 960 packages, each containing about 350g of heroin.
Authorities removed the heroin from the concrete for a controlled delivery to the intended recipient at Brendale last Tuesday (28 March).
The Auburn man allegedly collected the consignment in a rented truck on 29 March 2023, which then travelled to Sydney, where it was delivered to an industrial shed in Mount Druitt on Thursday (30 March).
He returned to the shed on Friday morning and allegedly used industrial tools to cut into the concrete and access the heroin hidden inside the display stands.
AFP officers arrested the man as he left the shed later that morning.
AFP investigators then executed a series of search warrants at businesses and homes in NSW and Queensland, including at Brendale in Queensland and Mount Druitt, Blacktown, Auburn, Cecil Park and Constitution Hill in NSW.
Police seized jewelry worth an estimated $700,000 from the Auburn man’s home as well as electronic devices.
Items seized from other locations included mobile phones, cash, hard drives, notebooks and other parts of the reconstructed consignment.
The 336kg seizure is the second largest onshore detection of heroin in Australian law enforcement history. The AFP and ABF seized 450kg of heroin in Melbourne in 2021.
AFP Commander John Tanti said removing so much heroin from Australian streets would save lives and deliver a crushing blow to the finances of organised criminals who were living large while law-abiding Australians struggled with the cost of living.
“This amount heroin would cause untold damage in the community and increase the burden on our health system and social services, all in the name of greed for transnational organised crime,” he said.
“The alleged criminals behind this import in Australian and overseas are now more than $268 million out of pocket and an alleged key member of their syndicate is facing life imprisonment.”
Commander Tanti said the AFP worked closely with international and Commonwealth partners to fight drug trafficking.
“The AFP is uniquely place to fight drug trafficking in our region due to our international network and close partnerships with overseas law enforcement agencies.
“The AFP is committed to stopping criminals using the Pacific as a maritime drug highway and will continue to identify and disrupt transnational organised crime syndicates seeking to harm Australia and generate millions of dollars of profits from criminal activity.”
“The investigation is ongoing and further arrests can’t be ruled out.”
ABF Commander James Copeman praised the efforts of ABF officers who detected the suspect consignment after it arrived at Port of Brisbane.
“The dedication and experience of our officers working at our state-of-the-art Container Examination Facility ensured that this massive shipment of heroin never stood a chance of hitting Australian streets,” Commander Copeman said.
“It is no exaggeration to say that untold harm has been prevented thanks to this detection. The very fact that this intercept represents about one third of the estimated annual consumption of heroin in Australia speaks to its significance.
“The ABF will continue to do all it can, together with its law enforcement partners, to ensure such illegal activity has zero success – and that criminals can expect to face the full legal consequences for these outrageous attempts.”
The following services provide people with access to support and information.
- For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
- Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online at counsellingonline.org.au.
- For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to turningpoint.org.au.