AFP seizes 9.9 tonnes of ‘tea packet’ methamphetamine since 2012

Editor’s note: Vision and images of tea packet meth available via Hightail.

The AFP has this year seized more than two tonnes of ‘tea packet methamphetamine’, depriving organised crime syndicates of more than $1 billion.

Tea package designs have been adopted by criminal syndicates since 2012 and are used by criminals to reflect the source and purity of methamphetamine.

The AFP has seized 35 consignments weighing almost 10 tonnes of methamphetamine concealed in tea packets from January 2012 to date.

There has been an increase of tea packet methamphetamine concealment since 2019, with the highest amount of 2.8 tonnes seized in 2020.

In 2022 alone, the AFP prevented more than 2.1 tonnes of ‘tea packet methamphetamine’ from reaching Australian streets. It would have had a street value of more than $1 billion.

In April this year, a Melbourne woman was charged with allegedly attempting to import 400kg of methamphetamine concealed in tea packets from Malaysia.

The amount of methamphetamine is estimated to have had a street value of at least $360 million.

In September 2020, three criminal syndicate members imported 180kg of methamphetamine into Sydney via Malaysia in vacuum-sealed tea packets.

In October, 2022, these three members were sentenced to jail terms of between 7 to 10 years.

Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia were identified as the top five countries contributing to the importation of ‘tea packet methamphetamine’ seized.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Tim Knight, a senior officer posted to Malaysia, said the AFP was working closely with South East Asian authorities to disrupt criminal syndicates trafficking methamphetamine.

“The strong cooperation between the AFP and international law enforcement partners have resulted in significant disruption activities across South East Asia,” Det Acting Supt Tim Knight said.

“The AFP is currently working to identify and block new transhipment routes utilised by criminals to move their product to the consumer market.”

What is ‘tea packet’ methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine manufactured in South East Asia is commonly produced and packaged in branded tea packets for concealment and marketing purposes.

Variations of the tea packets include green, gold and silver packaging with the green packaging being the most desired by criminal groups.

South East Asian manufactured methamphetamine remains high in purity relative to other production regions, including Mexico, the Middle East and Central Asia regions.

Methamphetamine found in these tea packet attracts higher domestic sale prices.

Smaller seizures have also found ketamine packed in tea sleeves. Methamphetamine concealed in tea packets weighs about 1kg, which is consistent with licit teas, making it more difficult to detect.

Criminal groups will adopt and modify methods of importation, including both international sea and airfreight, in attempt to avoid law enforcement detection.

These methods include handing the product over to other vessels heading towards destination countries or shipping tea packets of methamphetamine directly on ‘motherships’ - a large ship loitering offshore to hand over the drugs to smaller boat(s) to complete the transit.

Myanmar has been known as the predominant location for manufacture.

Significant efforts made by law enforcement agencies have led to the disruption of methamphetamine laboratories within the Shan State.

AFP seizures of tea packet methamphetamine:


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Total weight (in kg)





































Case studies:

Operation FUJI

In 2022, a Melbourne woman and man were charged with allegedly importing 56kg of methamphetamine and 13kgs of heroin.

The woman was also charged with allegedly attempting to import 400kgs of methamphetamine.

The investigation launched in 2021 after the Royal Malaysian Customs Department seized 400kgs of methamphetamine at Kuala Lumpur International Airport addressed to a Melbourne address.

The amount of methamphetamine seized in Malaysia could have been worth at least $360 million.

The drugs were concealed in Guanyinwang tea packets.

Operation CIRCINUS

In 2019, three people (two men and a woman) were charged with allegedly importing 1.596 tonnes of methamphetamine and 37kgs of heroin.

The drugs were concealed in stereo speakers in a sea cargo consignment detected by ABF officers at Melbourne Container Examination Facility.

The drugs had an estimated street value of $1.197 billion and $18.5 million, respectively. The container had originated from Bangkok, Thailand.

The drugs were vacuumed sealed in Guanyinwang tea packets.

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