Sydney: Australian law enforcement officials have seized 274 kg of drugs valued at $200 million hidden in a shipment of rice from India – one of the biggest such hauls in the country – and arrested three people. The Indian supplier was arrested in his home country, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement.
The three men, including two Canadians and an Australian, have been charged with the involvement in the import and intended distribution of the ephedrine.
The Indian who was allegedly held responsible for arranging the ephedrine and sending the consignment to Australia was arrested by the authorities in India on a tip-off from AFP’s International Network.
The statement said the seizure resulted from a joint operation involving the AFP, the Department of Agriculture and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
The Melbourne-bound consignment, containing an estimated 3,600 bags of rice, was subjected to a physical biosecurity examination by Department of Agriculture.
The analysis of the shipment identified a “crystalline substance”, subsequently found to be ephedrine, loosely distributed throughout some of the rice bags.
AFP National Manager Crime Operations Ian McCartney said the operation was a testament to the combined efforts of the AFP, international and domestic partner agencies in stopping criminals from importing drugs into Australia.
The operation began on July 16, 2013 following the examination of a consignment that arrived at Melbourne port from India containing bags labelled ‘basmati rice’.
On July 24, 2013, the AFP commenced a controlled delivery of the consignment to a storage facility in the Melbourne suburb of Springvale. On August 5 the consignment was transported to a storage facility in the Sydney suburb of Fairfield.
On September 23, 2013 AFP officers executed nine search warrants in Melbourne and Sydney. Evidence seized included $255,000 in cash. As a result three people were arrested and subsequently charged.