Opium imports into Australia from Pakistan, India and United Kingdom on the rise

The AFP seized 155kg from more than 125 attempted imports of opium via air, parcel and sea cargo since January 2023.

The AFP is seizing significant amounts of opium amid concerns criminal groups in Australia are using connections in the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan to source the illicit drug.

The AFP seized 155kg from more than 125 attempted imports of opium via air, parcel and sea cargo since January 2023.

Image: Operation WILLOWBANK (Source: AFP)

The 155kg is more than double the amount seized in 2022, and about six times the amount seized in 2021. The AFP, together with its law enforcement partners, has seized more than 300kg of the drug since 2020.

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AFP Commander Paula Hudson said opium imports were rare in Australia, but law enforcement had recorded an increase in the number of seizures at the border over the past year.

“Drug addiction has a profound impact on individuals and the wider community. The AFP, together with our state, territory and Commonwealth law enforcement partners, is committed to preventing the significant harm caused to our community as a result of these illicit drug imports.”

Commander Hudson said:

“We’re reminding criminals that we not only seizing the drugs but arresting alleged offenders who are connected to the imports. We will continue to work to target your illicit operations, identify you and bring you to justice.”

Image: Operation WILLOWBANK (Source: AFP)

ABF Commander Maritime and Enforcement South Clinton Sims said illicit drug shipments are being seized at Australia’s border at record levels, and that the ongoing dedication and expertise of ABF officers ensures deadly drugs do not enter the Australian community.

“Organised crime groups who are seeking to import illicit drugs should know that we will protect the integrity of the Australian border.”

Commander Sims said:

“The technical expertise of our officers and the sophisticated technology we use means that we will find the drugs, regardless of the concealment methods criminals’ use. The Australian border is a strategic national asset and is fundamental to our national security, economic prosperity and way of life.”

AFP intelligence has identified transnational serious crime syndicates are stepping up their attempts to conceal illicit substances, including opium, within objects in hopes of evading law enforcement. This includes impregnating opium resin inside items set to be imported into Australia.

Opium resin is a sticky dark-brown gum that can consumed as a liquid or powder and can be smoked, eaten and made into a tincture for drinking. Use of opium carries a high risk of addiction and overdose.

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Image: Operation WILLOWBANK (Source: AFP)

In July 2023, an Australian man and Iranian man appeared before the court charged with facilitating the importation of opium into Australia from Iran.

The men, aged 38 and 41, were arrested by AFP officers in Melbourne after they allegedly attempted to collect a container containing 23 opium-impregnated mats from a storage facility in Epping on 27 June 2023.

Both men were charged with importing a border-controlled substance and attempting to possess a border-controlled substance.

The men will face the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court again on 19 December. They are facing a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment if found guilty.

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.

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