Three men charged over 295kg NSW meth import

Editor's note: Vision of this operation is available via hightail

Three men have been charged following an Australian Federal Police-led investigation into the importation of approximately 295 kilograms of methamphetamine into New South Wales hidden inside an excavator.

The men were arrested at their Sydney homes on Tuesday (19 October 2021) after an investigation launched in July 2021 following the arrival of an excavator from Hong Kong into Sydney.

AFP investigators and forensic specialists, and Australia Border Force officers examined an excavator that arrived into Port Botany on 27 July and allegedly found a concealment containing a crystalline substance hidden in a part of the machinery.

Tests showed the substance was methamphetamine, weighing approximately 295 kilograms.

This amount had an estimated street value of $184 million and could have been sold as street deals to approximately 2.9 million people.

Police allege the drugs were concealed within layers of concrete, steel and lead in an effort to avoid detection.

The machinery had been sent from Hong Kong.

AFP officers removed the drugs and delivered the excavator to a business premises in Penrith in Greater Western Sydney in early August.

Two weeks later, the excavator was moved to a premises in Arndell Park, where the three men arrested this week allegedly examined the consignment.

Police will allege two of the men, aged 26 and 30, spent several days attempting to access the concealment within the excavator.  

They allegedly purchased a number of tools from a nearby hardware store to cut into the machinery.

Ongoing investigations resulted in search warrants on 19 October 2021 at residences in Prospect, Merrylands and Rydalmere. During the search warrants police seized in excess of $200,000 as well as encrypted communications devices and multiple kilograms of cannabis.

A 25-year-old Merrylands man was subsequently arrested and charged with:  

  • Importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine, contrary to section 307.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth); and
  • Attempting to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code (Cth), by virtue of section 11.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth).

A 26-year-old Prospect man and a 30-year-old Rydalmere man were also arrested and charged with:

  • Attempting to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code (Cth), by virtue of section 11.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth).

The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment.

The 30-year-old Rydalmere man is next expected to face Central Local Court on 3 November 2021.

The 25-year-old Merrylands man and the 26-year-old Prospect man are next expected to face Central Local Court on 15 December 2021.

Acting Commander Matthew Ciantar said this investigation strikes a significant blow to organised criminal groups operating in Australia.

"The Australian public should rest assured that the AFP and its partner agencies are committed to keeping the community safe. We will continue to use every resource available to disrupt and bring to justice people attempting to flood our communities with these dangerous drugs," Acting Commander Ciantar said.

"Had this drug seizure made its way to Australian streets, countless lives would have been affected. Methamphetamine causes extensive harm to users and the wider community – including health care workers and the families that are torn apart.

"Our investigation remains ongoing into everyone involved in the importation and planned distribution."

ABF Commander Port Operations East, Susan Drennan said intercepting this large quantity of methamphetamine at the border is a great result, preventing criminal profits and harm to the Australian community.

"Our officers continue to prove, time and time again, that criminals who attempt to conceal these substances will be caught. We have the technological capability to detect these drugs and other illicit goods no matter how well they are concealed, and our officers can see further into these types of shipments than ever before," Commander Drennan said.

"ABF officers work every day to detect and disrupt these types of criminal operations. Criminals should know that regardless of their concealment methods, we will detect them and bring those responsible to justice."

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.
  • For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to the Turning Point website.

Media enquiries:

  • AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297
  • ABF Media: (02) 6264 2211

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