Fri, Dec 06, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Three charged in Australia’s largest crystal meth haul

AP, CANBERRA

Two customs agents and an information technology worker appeared in a court yesterday charged with drug offenses over Australia’s largest seizure of methamphetamine, which had been smuggled to Melbourne from Bangkok in stereo speakers.

Police estimate the 1.6 tonnes of the drug, also known as ice and crystal meth, had a street value of A$1.197 billion (US$817.4 million).

The 37kg of heroin also seized was the largest haul of that drug in Australia since 2017, a police statement said.

“It’s almost a quarter of the annual usage in Australia, so this will have an impact,” Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters, referring to the crystal meth.

Married customs agents Rachel Cachia, 37, and Donovan Rodrigues, 38 appeared with their co-accused Stephen Mizzi, 37, in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on drug importation charges that carry potential life prison sentences.

They did not enter pleas or apply for bail. They will remain in custody until they appear in court next on May 7.

Customs agents are private-sector employees who facilitate cargo movements through ports.

They do not have security clearance, but operate as independent import-export experts who know how the system works.

“They are trusted insiders in the industry. They used their position of trust to circumvent the border controls that exist within Australia,” Gaughan said. “This vulnerability has been fully removed.”

Police were now working toward bringing the bosses of the operation to justice, he said.

The three were arrested after police executed search warrants on Wednesday at several Melbourne properties.

Australian Border Force officers in April detected the haul in vacuum-sealed packages concealed in speakers at the Melbourne waterfront in April.

The drug shipment arrived from Thailand, but Australian authorities suspect it originated from another country.

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