Six men charged for attempt to traffic $1.7 billion worth of meth into Australia

The methamphetamine, solely for the Australian market and destined for Victoria and NSW, would have amounted to almost 19 million individual street deals.

Two men have been charged with attempting to import methamphetamine from a global criminal syndicate that has attempted to traffic almost $1.7 billion worth of the high-harm drug to Australia over several months.

A further four men, who allegedly tried to buy the illicit drugs in Australia, have also been charged.

The AFP and Victoria Police Victorian Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF), working with Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group partners, has prevented more than six tonnes of liquid crystal methamphetamine from arriving in Australia in four separate ventures.

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The methamphetamine, solely for the Australian market and destined for Victoria and NSW, would have amounted to almost 19 million individual street deals.

Today, the AFP’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Alison Money, will take the unprecedented step of addressing the media to explain the dangers of consuming methamphetamine.

AFP Southern Assistant Commissioner Hilda Sirec will outline the national security threat posed by transnational serious organised crime groups trafficking high-harm illicit drugs Australia.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill will explain how methamphetamine is significantly harming the Victorian community, whether it be through lives lost on our roads or violence on our streets and in our homes.

Under Operation Parkes, the AFP and Victoria Police executed eight search warrants across Melbourne’s CBD and western suburbs yesterday (14 June, 2023). The five-month investigation was also supported by Australian Border Force (ABF), the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).

A man, 38, from Melbourne’s CBD, who recently returned from overseas, will appear in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today (Thursday 15 June, 2023), charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs and attempting to possess a commercial quantity of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs. It will be alleged the man acted as a conduit for an organised crime network in Canada, and is the primary onshore facilitator for the transport and movement of one attempted methamphetamine import to Australia.

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A man, 32, from Melbourne’s CBD, will appear in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 15 June 2023, charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drugs, attempting to possess a commercial quantity of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs and trafficking a drug of dependence. It will be alleged the man is a professional facilitator, and used his position in a logistics business to transport the substituted methamphetamine when it arrived in Australia.

Both men are facing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

A Sunshine North man, 28, a US national, 25, and a St Albans man, 19, have each been charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs. It is expected that further charges will be laid against these three men.  Police executed search warrants at their homes and a storage unit in Sunshine, which the three men allegedly used to store the illicit drugs. During the warrants, police allegedly uncovered a clandestine lab at the Sunshine North home along with a quantity of other drugs.

They appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 14 June 2023. The 28 year old Sunshine North man is due to reappear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 15 June 2023, while the other two men are remanded in custody until 18 October 2023. 

Another Melbourne CBD man, 51, will appear in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 15 June 2023, charged with possession and trafficking of a marketable quantity of border controlled drugs, possession of a controlled drug, dealing with proceeds of crime and failing to comply with a court order. 

Further arrests in Australia are expected.

It will be alleged the two men from Melbourne’s CBD, were involved in facilitating one of the four alleged attempted methamphetamine imports.

In January, 2023, Canadian authorities alerted the AFP that 2900 litres of liquid methamphetamine were contained in 180 bottles of canola oil and destined for Australia. It had an estimated street value of $720 million. The two men are charged for this import.

It will be alleged that once the consignment arrived in March 2023, the two men were involved in moving it to a number of storage locations across Melbourne.

It is further alleged that during the investigation, a number of new persons of interest were identified when 120 canola oil bottles were moved across Victoria.

The three men, aged 28, 25, and 19, are alleged to have been operating a clandestine laboratory in Melbourne where a large quantity of cocaine, methamphetamine and equipment used to manufacture drugs was located, along with a large quantity of cash and a two imitation firearms.

In May, 2023, Canadian authorities seized about 325 litres of liquid methamphetamine that was concealed within canola oil and destined for Australia. It had an estimated street value of $81 million.

In June, 2023, Canadian authorities seized about 2900 litres of liquid methamphetamine that was concealed within canola oil and destined for Australia. It had an estimated street value of $717 million.

The global crime syndicate is also linked to an attempt to traffic 200kg of crystal methamphetamine to Australia in December, 2022. The illicit drugs had a street value of $180 million and was also seized by Canadian authorities.

In January, 2023, New Zealand Police seized 713kg of crystal methamphetamine and charged six people. The AFP suspects those drugs were sourced from the same organised crime group that is trafficking methamphetamine to Australia.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Hilda Sirec said all of the imports bound for Australia had been substituted with harmless substances to give authorities time to identify alleged Australian offenders and their connection to overseas criminal syndicates.

“Transnational serious organised crime groups are a national security threat. They undermine the Australian economy, social security system and financial system,’’ Assistant Commissioner Sirec said.

“The AFP has members based in 33 countries, and our offshore partnerships, operations and disruptions, are a key strategy in diverting crime, including illicit drugs from Australia.

“The AFP is among the frontline defence of Australia, so we can help protect Australians and our way of life.

“Equally, helping to prevent illicit drugs from coming into Australia is critical because it deprives organised crime from profiting and bankrolling other serious offences, including child exploitation, sexual servitude and human trafficking.

“And while organised crime and drug trafficking are not new, what is emerging, is the trafficking of illicit drugs in state war craft.

“In parts of the world, some state actors appear to be working with organised crime to distribute illicit drugs to regions in a bid to undermine societies and democracy. This challenges our rules-based order and the rule of law at levels never before seen.”

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill, Crime Command, said the transnational nature of this operation was reflective of the current environment of organised crime – simply motivated by greed and where they could make the highest profit.

“Unfortunately, the insatiable appetite for illicit drugs in Australia makes us a lucrative market for organised crime,’’ Assistant Commissioner Hill said.

“Importing these types of insidious drugs on an industrial scale ruins lives while destroying communities and families.

“The prevalence of these illicit substances within our society and the impact they have on human behaviour translates to road trauma, family violence, homicides, fatal shootings and other violent offending intrinsically linked to illicit drug trafficking.

“We are simply not prepared to allow this to happen and will continue to target those criminals who promote their misery through the illicit drug market.

“Our message to these international drug lords is very clear: we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement and intelligence partners to crush your operations.

“Stopping this criminal organisation from operating beyond our border means that these illicit drugs will never make it to the suburbs or rural settings of Australia.

“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.

“Seizing six tonnes of methylamphetamine – or $1.7B worth – is an extraordinary blow to organised crime. We will not stop. Our job is to protect this community and we will relentlessly target whoever seeks to harm it.”

AFP Chief Medical Officer, Dr Alison Money said methamphetamine was highly addictive and had a significant physical, mental and social impact on users.

“Every day, on average, 40 people are admitted to Australian hospitals from methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine use,’’ Dr Money said.

“Every week, on average, 16 Australians die from heroin, amphetamine or cocaine overdose.

“Methamphetamine profoundly impacts every major organ system we have. A single episode of use can be sufficient to result in addiction, and the chronic usage has catastrophic consequences for physical and mental health.

“Law enforcement strongly discourages people from consuming methamphetamine and importantly, we strongly encourage those who use methamphetamine to seek the medical help and support needed to stop using the dangerous drug.”

British Columbia Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Assistant Commissioner Will Ng said strong partnerships in policing helped build a safer world.

“Operation Parkes is a perfect example of what law enforcement can achieve when we work together, helping each other disrupt the flow of illicit drugs around the globe and combat the threat of transnational organized crime,” Assistant Commissioner Ng said.

“The RCMP is proud to have contributed to this effort alongside the Australian Federal Police and other FELEG partners.”

Referring to the NZ seizure in January, 2023. New Zealand Police Commissioner Coster said it was a significant result by NZ’s National Organised Crime Group, alongside partner agencies in New Zealand and across the globe, to combat the harm methamphetamine causes to our communities.

“Had this shipment been distributed across New Zealand it would have caused immense harm to the vulnerable communities these criminal groups were preying upon,” Commissioner Coster said.

Police estimate this seizure would have caused close to two and a half billion dollars’ worth of social harm, according to drug harm index figures.

“We know that drugs are a major driver of crime in New Zealand, and we see first-hand how damaging the impact of addiction in our communities is,” Commissioner Coster said.

“We are committed to disrupting and dismantling drug networks identified through a multi-agency, international partnerships approach.”

New Zealand Customs Service Comptroller of Customs Christine Stevenson said the message to transnational organised crime was that, “we are aware of what they are doing, how they are doing it, and we will use the combined resources of New Zealand Customs and our partner agencies here in New Zealand and around the world to stop them and hit the profits they try to extract from our communities and our economy”.

ABF Acting Assistant Commissioner Chris Holzheimer said the ongoing dedication and expertise of officers at the border ensured illicit substances do not enter the Australian community.

“The audacity that many criminal actors show when they’re attempting to import illicit substances into Australia is astounding, and this is yet another example of that,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Holzheimer said.

“The ABF works with its partners both here in Australia and internationally to ensure illicit drugs don’t reach our communities.

“This operation proves yet again that when we work alongside our law enforcement partners, criminals don’t stand a chance and can expect to be brought to justice.

“The Australian border is one of our most critical national assets and criminals should know that we will relentlessly protect it to their utmost detriment.”

Canada Border Services Agency Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Nina Patel said Canada Border Services Agency officers in British Columbia seized more than 6330 kg of methamphetamine over six months, all destined for Australia.

“One seizure alone was the largest methamphetamine seizure in the CBSA’s history at almost 3000 kg,” she said.

“We are proud to have worked alongside the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force and our partners at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to combat organized crime and protect our communities.”

The most recent ACIC National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report found that there had been a national increase in methylamphetamine and heroin consumption from year 5 (2020–21) to year 6 (2021–22) of the program.

The report said, “at a time when discretionary expenditure by Australians is increasingly constrained, an estimated $10 billion was spent on methylamphetamine, cocaine, MDMA and heroin between August 2021 and August 2022. Methylamphetamine accounted for 83 per cent of this expenditure”.

The ACIC estimated that 2.9 tonnes of methylamphetamine was consumed in NSW in 2021–2022. During the same period, about 2.5 tonnes was consumed in Victoria, about 1.6 tonnes in Queensland, about 944kg in Western Australia, about 775kg in South Australia, 99kg in Tasmania, about 83kg in ACT and about 50kg in the Northern Territory.

NOTE: 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 www.counsellingonline.org.au.
  • For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to www.turningpoint.org.au.