Three men are expected to face Perth Magistrate's Court today (5 January 2022) charged over an alleged plot to import almost $100 million worth of methamphetamine into Western Australia ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations.
The WA men were arrested by Australian Federal Police officers on 30 December 2021 after a joint agency investigation launched when Australian Border Force officers found the drugs hidden in a 550-kilogram shipment of latex bed pillows.
ABF officers in Fremantle examined the consignment on 17 December after it arrived on a container ship. After examining the goods within the container they found anomalies within the latex pillows, which they carefully deconstructed. Officers located a crystal-like substance which was subsequently referred to the AFP and tested positive to methamphetamine.
AFP forensic specialists established there was approximately 99 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed within the consignment. They replaced the drugs with a harmless substance before the cargo was released for collection.
AFP and ABF officers, with assistance from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Department of Home Affairs and WA Police Force, were watching as two men allegedly picked up the boxes of pillows last Wednesday morning (29 December 2021) and took them to a property in Maddington. They were met by two other men, and the group allegedly unloaded the boxes into a shipping container and left them there.
Police will allege three men went to the site the next evening (Thursday 30 December) and entered the shipping container, where they accessed the boxes.
AFP and ABF officers swooped and arrested the men as they left the property in a van. The men's van and a police vehicle collided as the trio allegedly tried to evade authorities.
Ninety-nine kilograms of meth could have been sold to close to one million people as individual street deals, with the estimated street value approximately $100 million.
AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner John Tanti said methamphetamine prices in WA were currently among the highest in the country because COVID border closures had helped to restrict the supply but sadly, demand for the drug remained high.
"Criminal syndicates are looking to exploit this demand and sell methamphetamine in WA to maximise their profits, they do not care about the immense harm that this drug causes," Acting Assistant Commissioner Tanti said.
"We believe it is also no coincidence that the drugs had arrived in Perth just in time for New Year's Eve celebrations – one of the busiest nights of the year for drug and alcohol fuelled harm.
"If this amount of meth had reached the West Australian community, the estimated total social cost would have been approximately $22.65 million – through crime, increased healthcare and justice costs, and loss of productivity.
"We are working tirelessly with our partners to make Australia a hostile place for criminal syndicates and combat the supply of these dangerous drugs in WA and across the country."
Australian Border Force (ABF) Acting Assistant Commissioner West James Copeman, said ABF officers used a multi-layered approach, informed by intelligence and supported by sophisticated technology, to target high risk cargo and detect illicit drugs at Australia's borders.
"This is a significant detection by our officers who are determined to prevent harmful illicit drugs from entering Australia and continue to remain one step ahead of criminal syndicates," A/Assistant Commissioner Copeman said.
"Despite the disruptions created by COVID and travel restrictions, ABF officers have increased the number of detections of illicit drugs at our borders, with around 5.2 tonnes of meth being seized in the 2020-21 financial year through 1,745 detections."
The men – aged 31, 32 and 35 – have each been charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).
They faced Perth Magistrate's Court on 31 December 2021 and were remanded in custody to reappear today (Wednesday, 5 January 2022).
They each face a potential penalty of life imprisonment if convicted.
The illicit consignment was loaded onto the vessel in Asia but investigations are ongoing into the source of the drugs.
AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Tanti said police are continuing to work to identify everyone involved in this drug importation and planned distribution. Anyone with information relating to the investigation is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Note to media:
Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. 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.
- For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to the Turning Point website.
- AFP National Media: (02) 5126 9297
- ABF Media: (02) 6264 2244
Editor's note: footage and images of the cargo and arrests are available for download.