World

Aussie cops seize drug-filled bra inserts in $1b drug bust

Bra inserts filled with Ice were among the items seized in an A$1 billion (S$1 billion) drug bust in Australia. Ice is the street name for methamphetamine.

One of the country's biggest drug busts, it was conducted together with China in a joint operation.

Three people from Hong Kong and a Chinese national were arrested during the operation.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan described it as the largest seizure of liquid methamphetamine in Australian history.

"This has resulted in 3.6 million individual hits of Ice being taken off our streets with a street value of A$1.26 billion," he said.

"This largest seizure of liquid methamphetamine to date is the result of organised criminals, targeting the lucrative Australian Ice market from offshore."

Australian Federal Police Commander Chris Sheehan said the operation began in December when the Australian Border Force examined a shipping container out of Hong Kong in Sydney. It originated in mainland China.

"That shipping container was found to contain gel bra inserts and hidden inside those gel bra inserts was 190 litres of liquid methamphetamine," he said.

HIDDEN

The seizure was referred to the Australian Federal Police, which began an investigation that traced an additional 530 litres of liquid methamphetamine to five storage units in Sydney where they were found inside art supplies.

Last month, a 33-year-old Hong Kong man was arrested and charged in connection with the original seizure.

A further two people from Hong Kong, a man, 37, and a 52-year-old woman, along with a Chinese man, 59, were also arrested and charged with taking part in the manufacture of a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug over the stash in the storage units.

"We are alleging that the people we have arrested weren't just mere bit-players, they were significant players within this criminal network," said Mr Sheehan, adding that they all face life in prison if convicted.

The sting was part of Taskforce Blaze, an operation established in November between the Australian Federal Police and the Chinese National Narcotics Control Commission - the first joint effort between the two targeting the booming Ice market.

The bust comes two months after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled a A$300 million strategy to combat the growing use of Ice following a government report that Australia had proportionally more users than most countries.

The report showed that the use of the highly addictive drug had doubled since 2007 to more than 200,000 users in 2013, with anecdotal evidence of higher current numbers.

An Australian Crime Commission report published last year found that while US$80 (S$112) bought one gram of Ice in China, users in Australia had to pay US$500 for the same amount. - AFP

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