Brisbane man charged with importing 83kg of methamphetamine hidden inside timber pallets

Methamphetamine hidden inside timber pallets.

Editor's note: Images of the seized items are available for download

A 32-year-old Brisbane man is scheduled to face Brisbane Magistrates Court today (Friday 4 February 2022) after the Queensland Joint Organised Task Force (QJOCTF) charged him with importing 83kg of methamphetamine allegedly hidden inside hollowed-out timber pallets.

The QJOCTF - which comprises the AFP, Australian Border Force (ABF), Queensland Police (QPS) and Department of Home Affairs (DHA) - arrested the man in December following a five-month investigation named Operation Wirraway.

The operation began in August 2021 after ABF officers at the Port of Brisbane examined a container filled with 895 packages of tiles was shipped from Thailand.

An X-ray examination of one of the 24 timber pallets carrying the tiles identified a white powdery substance hidden inside the timber slats that formed the top of the pallet.

Presumptive testing of the substance indicated the presence of methamphetamine leading AFP forensic officers to undertake a more detailed examination of the shipment.

Investigators identified that each of the seven slats fixed to the top of the pallets had allegedly been hollowed out and filled with bags of white powder weighing about 500 grams each.

Investigators removed nearly 83 kilograms of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of $10.2 million, from the shipment before it was sent for a controlled delivery to a self-storage facility south of Brisbane.

Police later observed the 32-year-old Iranian national take possession of the container at the storage facility and unload the pallets into individual storage sheds. The man allegedly made several more visits to the storage facility to examine the pallets.

Officers from the QJOCTF executed a search warrant at the man's Shailer Park home in September 2021. On 16 December 2021, the man was arrested and charged with:

  • Three counts of importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth);
  • Possessing unlawfully imported border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.7 of the Criminal Code (Cth); and
  • Dealing with the proceeds of crime - money or property worth $10,000 or more – contrary to section 400.6 of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for the offences are imprisonment for life, two years and 10 years respectively.

AFP Detective Superintendent Helen Schneider said drug importers were driven by greed and showed callous disregard for the misery they caused to Australians addicted by methamphetamine.

"Removing 83kg of methamphetamine from Australian streets ensures our communities are safer because the illicit drug trade facilitates a supply chain of violence and horror stretching all the way overseas," Detective Superintendent Schneider said

"While demand for methamphetamine in Australia remains strong, greedy importers will continue trying to evade law enforcement, but the AFP and our partners will stay one step ahead of them."

Detective Superintendent Colin Briggs from the Drug and Serious Crime Group, Queensland Police Service, said the arrest was the result of a united front in the fight against organised criminal activity.

"The QJOCTF will continue to target and dismantle these criminal networks, using all available resources and intelligence, to prevent illicit drugs impacting the Australian community," Detective Superintendent Briggs said.

ABF Superintendent Amanda Coppleman noted that close interagency efforts through QJOCTF continued to yield strong results, with ABF officers at the forefront of border detections.

"We are working together with all the taskforce agencies to push back forcefully against illegal import attempts such as this. I commend our officers for making this detection at the border – this result is testament to their hard work and excellent training," Superintendent Coppleman said.

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