More than 300kg of methamphetamine hidden in steel machinery seized in Sydney

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

Editor’s Note: Photos of the seizure and audio grabs from AFP Detective Sergeant Salam Zreika are available via Hightail.

The AFP is seeking information to identify the transnational crime syndicate behind the elaborately concealed importation of more than 300kg of methamphetamine in a consignment from Mexico.

The drugs were hidden inside a steel hydraulic press which arrived into New South Wales by ship on 18 April, 2023.

Australian Border Force (ABF) officers examined the large cargo consignment at the Container Examination Facility in Sydney.

Initial results were inconclusive due to the density of the steel, which raised suspicion and prompted further tests.

Engineering experts drilled into the core of the hydraulic press and identified a white substance deep inside the machinery. Testing of the powder returned a positive result for methamphetamine.

The machinery was pulled apart to reveal 79 circle-shaped blocks of methamphetamine, stored within two lead-lined tubs to try to evade detection.

This amount of methamphetamine could have been sold as more than three million individual street deals and had an estimated street value of more than $273 million.

AFP Detective Sergeant Salam Zreika said the funding needed to obtain 300kg of methamphetamine and develop such a complex concealment method could be achieved only by a well-established organised crime syndicate.

“This seizure shows the extremes that drug trafficking syndicates will go to in their bids to smuggle illicit drugs into Australia because of the profits they can make,” Det-Sgt. Zreika said.

“The AFP is working with law enforcement partners locally and overseas to investigate the origins of the drugs, identify the criminals behind the importation and prevent them from sending these harmful drugs to Australia and profiting at the expense of our communities.

“Retrieving the drugs from this concealment in Australia would require significant resources, expertise and space, so someone in the community may have heard something that could help us to identify those involved locally.

“Methamphetamine causes immense harm. On average, 33 people were hospitalised each day in Australia for methamphetamine-related incidents in 2020-21.”*

ABF Inspector Marc Rea said regardless of whatever creative methods criminals dreamt up to bring harmful drugs across Australia’s border, the experience and expertise of ABF officers would detect these consignments regardless.

“In this case, even thick steel couldn’t dampen the determination of our officers in locating the concealed methamphetamine deep inside the hydraulic press,” Inspector Rea said.

“The Australian border is one of our most critical national assets and criminals should know that we will relentlessly protect it to their utmost detriment.”

Anyone with information about this importation is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report via the Crime Stoppers website, stating ‘Operation Withcott’. You can report information anonymously.

*Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.

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