Five men have been charged with drug importation offences and up to 300 kilograms of pure pseudo-ephedrine seized following a joint operation in Melbourne.
This amount of pseudo-ephedrine has the potential to produce upwards of 210 kilograms of methamphetamine, which has a wholesale value of $42 million and an estimated street price in excess of $200 million*.
Operation Haughton is a joint investigation between the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Victoria Police, the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).
The five men aged between 27 and 48 were arrested on Saturday (7 January 2017) and search warrants were conducted at eight locations in the Melbourne suburbs of Burnside, St Albans, Sunshine, East Keilor and Tottenham. The consignment was located at a factory in Tottenham.
Police will allege the syndicate imported the pseudo-ephedrine mixture (arriving into Melbourne from Vietnam on 9 December 2016) in 57 boxes, hidden amongst over 900 boxes of washing powder. Australian Border Force officers at the Melbourne Container Examination Facility used intelligence provided by the ACIC to select the consignment for further examination and found that the powder tested positive for pseudo-ephedrine.
The total weight of the pseudo-ephedrine/white powder mix is 1,000 kilograms. It is estimated that about 300 kilograms of pure pseudo-ephedrine is mixed into the white powder, however the final amount will be determined following forensic analysis. Pseudo-ephedrine is a direct precursor of methamphetamine.
It will also be alleged the syndicate is responsible for a clandestine laboratory located in Werribee, Victoria, which produced in excess of 500 kilograms of methamphetamine.
All five men appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Sunday (8 January 2017) charged with a range of offences related to importing a commercial quantity of border controlled pre-cursor, and trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug of dependence. Bail was refused for all five men and they will next appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday 13 January 2017.
The maximum penalty for these charges is life imprisonment.
Two men both aged 48 were charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled precursor, namely pseudo-ephedrine, contrary to section 307.11(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
Three of the men aged 27, 42 and 48 were charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled precursor, namely pseudo-ephedrine, contrary to section 307.11 (1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
Four of the men aged 27, 42, 48 and 48 were charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug of dependence, namely pseudo-ephedrine, contrary to subsection 71 of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic).
* The AFP uses the ACC Illicit Drug Data Report (www.acc.gov.au) as the consistent publication for illicit substances in Australia. This figure is the basis of calculating both the monetary value of the illicit drug were it to be sold at the end of the supply chain or ‘on the street’, and the number of related street deals. This is based on available price data and may not be reflective of what would generally be considered as a street deal for this drug type.*