Three Hongkongers and a mainland Chinese man have been arrested in connection with the largest seizure of liquid methamphetamine in Australian history.
The operation led to a record seizure of 720
litres of liquid methylamphetamine with an estimated street value of more than A$1 billion(HK$5.5 billion), Australian Federal Police said on Monday.
Around 190 litres of the liquid methylamphetamine, concealed inside thousands of gel bra inserts, was discovered last month when Australian law enforcers examined a consignment that arrived from Hong Kong on the Boxing Day last year, according to Australian police.
READ MORE: ‘Spider-Man’ informant given record reward for helping to bust drugs gang in southern China
“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,” said Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
“This largest seizure of liquid methamphetamine to date is the result of organised criminals, targeting the lucrative Australian ice market from offshore,” he added.
Australian Federal Police Commander Chris Sheehan said the joint operation with Chinese authorities began in December 2015, 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.
The seizure was referred to the Australian Federal Police, who began an investigation which traced an additional 530 litres of liquid methamphetamine to five storage units in Sydney, where they were found inside art supplies.
In January, a 33-year-old Hong Kong man was arrested and charged in connection with the original seizure.
A further two Hongkongers, a man, 37, and a 52-year-old woman, along with a male Chinese national, 59, were also arrested and charged with knowingly taking part in the manufacture of a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug over the stash in the storage units.
READ MORE: Traveller from Hong Kong arrested at New Zealand airport after HK$7.5m crystal meth found in two neck pillows
According to Australian police, all charges carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
“We are alleging that the people we have arrested weren’t just mere bit players, they were significant players within this criminal network,” said Sheehan, adding that they all face life in prison if convicted.
The bust comes two months after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled an 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 bought one gram of ice in China, users in Australia had to pay US$500 for the same amount.