Men jailed for importing 645kg of MDMA hidden in barbeques

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

Editor’s note: footage of one of the arrests and images of the concealment are available via Hightail.

Two men have been sentenced to a cumulative term of 14 years’ jail following a joint investigation into the attempted importation of 645kg methamphetamine concealed in steel barbeques.

The operation began in 2019 and involved the collaboration efforts of the AFP, Australian Border Force (ABF), the Cyprus Drug Law Enforcement Unit (DLEU) and the United Kingdom National Crime Agency (NCA).

In July 2019, the Cyprus DLEU provided the AFP with information on a suspected importation of a significant amount of drugs from Cyprus.

Later that month, a shipping container arrived in Sydney from Cyprus containing 200 aluminium steel barbeques. The container was intercepted by ABF officers who conducted a forensic examination of the barbeques, revealing about 645kg of methamphetamine concealed within false base plates.

On 16 December 2019, simultaneous search warrants were executed in Sydney, Cyprus and the UK by AFP, DLEU and NCA officers. During the Sydney warrants, both men were arrested and charged with Commonwealth drug offences.

Detective Sergeant Dale Widders said the AFP has a long history working alongside domestic and international law enforcement partners to target organised crime, and this job demonstrates just how vital those relationships are.

“The seizure of these drugs is an excellent demonstration of the collaborative work done by the AFP and other law enforcement agencies to disrupt organised criminals and stop the importation of illicit drugs,” Det-Sgt Widders said.

“As a result of this job we’ve been able to keep 2.2 million individual street deals from reaching our community and as $61 million out of the pockets of criminals.”

ABF Superintendent Container Examination Facility and Detained Goods Management Joanne Yeats said the ABF and its partner agencies remain one step ahead of those trying to use increasingly sophisticated concealment techniques to import illicit substances.

“Our highly skilled and experienced officers are equipped with the necessary technological capability to detect even the most sophisticated unlawful importations,” Supt Yeats said.

“We continue to work side-by-side with our law enforcement partners to ensure the Australian community is kept safe from organised crime syndicates involved in the importation of border controlled drugs.”

A Canadian man, 32, faced Sydney Central Local Court on 5 July 2022 and was charged with one count of aid, abet counsel or procure an imported border controlled drug contrary to sections 307.1 and 11.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of two years and seven months.

A Coomera man, 36, faced Sydney Downing Centre District Court yesterday, charged with one count of attempt to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug, namely MDMA, contrary to sections 307.5(1) and 11.1(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of six years.

Further details on the detection and arrest of the men is available here.

Note to media:

Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.

  • For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
  • Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online at www.counsellingonline.org.au.
  • For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to www.turningpoint.org.au.

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