Big drug bust - 274kg of ephedrine wrapped in rice

AUTHORITIES have released details of Australia's third biggest drug haul - 274kg of ephedrine worth $200m, seized after a Department of Agriculture border officer found the drugs in a shipment of rice from India in July.

The seizure of the methamphetamine precursor drug ephedrine was sparked after border control officers found traces of an unusual crystalline substance in 3600 bags of rice.

Australian Federal Police announced the seizure on Wednesday, revealing four people have been arrested over the importation and intended distribution of the precursor chemical.

National manager of crime operations Ian McCartney said those arrested included Australians and Canadians in Melbourne and Sydney.

He said Indian authorities had also arrested a man in India in relation to the bust, who he described as a "significant crime figure".

Mr McCartney said the ephedrine could have been used to manufacture up to 200kg of crystal methamphetamine, drugs which could have been worth up to $200 million on the street.

The chemical was found by the agriculture officer "loosely distributed" in consignment bags labelled as "basmati rice", at the Port of Melbourne, after shipment from India on July 16.

Testing followed the find, confirming the substance as ephedrine, before an AFP sting that travelled from Melbourne to Sydney resulted in multiple arrests.

On Monday this week, AFP officers executed nine search warrants in both cities, resulting the arrests and seizure of $255,000 in cash.

After the AFP contacted Indian authorities, police also arrested an "Indian national" this week, alleging the person had organised the ephedrine and shipping.

Drug Bust

  • 274kg of ephedrine
  • Used in the production of methamphetamine
  • Third largest single drug bust in Australia's history
  • Worth up to $200m on the street
  • Two Canadians, one Australian charged with supply a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug
  • Fourth man arrested and assisting police with inquiries
  • Investigations are continuing

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