755kg of methamphetamine imported from Mexico in cow hides


This is a joint media release by the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force.

Australian authorities have seized 755kg of crystal methamphetamine (ice) hidden inside raw animal hides, stopping more than 7.5 million individual deals reaching Melbourne streets.

A man allegedly involved with a Mexican-based organised crime syndicate was arrested yesterday (28 August) and it will be alleged that the syndicate is responsible for the importation of this huge haul of ice into Australia. This is the largest onshore seizure of ice originating from Mexico.

The joint Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (ABF) operation began on 13 August 2019, after a shipping container, declared as containing “Salty Bovine Skin Cuero Verde Salado De Bovino”, arrived in Sydney from Mexico.

The shipment was examined by ABF officers and 18 pallets of frozen, raw and untreated cow skins were located inside. Further inspection revealed 161 silver packages of a crystalline white substance hidden within the skins.

Forensic testing revealed the packages contained high grade crystal methamphetamine. Had it made its way to our streets, this seizure would have an estimated street value of $566.3 million and could have generated more than 7.5 million individual street deals.

Investigators identified a 42-year-old Mexican national who allegedly organised the importation of the drugs into Australia. On 28 August 2019, AFP officers executed two search warrants at a St Kilda address and seized several electronic items.

The man has been charged with importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drug and attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs. The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment.

Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs the Honourable Jason Wood, said the massive seizure of ice had been kept off the streets thanks to dedication of officers

“If these drugs had made their way into Australian communities, countless lives would have been affected. The Australian Government will continue to support the identification and prosecution of those involved in attempting to import illegal substances into Australia,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

AFP Commander Amanda Kates, State Manager Victoria and Tasmania, said the hard work of AFP investigators and ABF officers has prevented a vast amount of harmful drugs from reaching Melbourne streets.

“Hiding drugs in untreated cow hides presented a significant biological hazard for AFP and ABF members extracting it. It once again shows organised criminal syndicates have no conscience or care for those they are targeting with their illegal products,” said Commander Kates.

“These syndicates rely on human suffering at all stages of their activities; this occurs at the supply end in Mexico, through to the harm suffered by users and their families here in Australia. If you buy and use drugs, you are helping organised crime to flourish both overseas and here at home, every time you purchase a hit.”

ABF Regional Commander Victoria and Tasmania Craig Palmer said the detection showed the valuable role the community plays in protecting the border, and the success of the ABF’s multi-layered approach to border protection.

“This container was targeted due to information gained from intelligence work,” Commander Palmer said.

“This is the fourth major detection of ice in just three months. It comes just two months after the country’s largest ever onshore methamphetamine consignment here in Melbourne – 1.6 tonnes concealed in stereo speakers.

“Our officers dedicate their careers to keeping Australians safe from these harmful substances, but the message is obviously not getting through to some people. Let me make it clear; do not try and import these drugs. You are wasting your time, as no concealment is a match for the ABF’s detection capabilities.”

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.

Editor’s Note

Footage and images of the consignment can be found here

Arrest footage of the alleged offender can be found here

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