February 12, 2014
POLICE have charged five people in Sydney over the importation of an estimated $180 million worth of methamphetamine concealed inside kayaks sent from China.
Customs allegedly found about 183kg of the illegal drug on Wednesday last week after X-raying 27 kayaks that had entered Australia.
The tests showed 19 of the kayaks contained packages with methamphetamine inside.
Australian Federal Police on Tuesday allowed the kayaks to be delivered to a Sydney storage facility, where they arrested four Taiwanese nationals.
Three of the men, aged 21, 30 and 35, were charged with possessing a commercial quantity of drugs and the fourth, a 28-year-old woman, was charged with drug importation.
Police later arrested a 32-year-old Kensington man at his home and charged him with attempting to import the drugs.
Customs regional director Tim Fitzgerald said the 183kg of crystal meth was found in watertight areas inside the kayaks.
There were also a number of life jackets inside the boats that may have been put there to misdirect the attention of any searches, he added.
“It’s fair to say that any item coming into Australia can be used to hide narcotics,’’ he told reporters in Sydney today.
“Previously through airports, we’ve seen narcotics concealed inside surfboards.”
Mr Fitzgerald said that in the past 14 months, Customs had found more than 1000kg of meth in liquid and crystal form.
He said the drug was a “significant problem’’ for border protection authorities and a significant amount came from China.
Australian Federal Police Sydney manager Ray Johnson said people accused of drug hauls of the amount found in the kayaks could expect to face around 15 years in jail if found guilty.
The kayaks were inspected at the Sydney Container Examination Facility.
David John Alton, 32, who was charged with importing a commercial quantity of drugs, appeared before Sydney’s Central Local Court today and was refused bail.
The matter was adjourned until April 9 before the same court.
Meng-Chih Shih, 30, Zhao Xiung Huang, 35, and Chien Khih Kuo, 21, also appeared before Central Local Court today and had their bail formally refused.
Court documents show the men resided in the same Sydney CBD address.
Chieh-Wei Lin, 28, from another Sydney CBD address, also had her bail refused.
They are all due to return to court on April 9.
Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison today congratulated Customs for preventing the methamphetamine from reaching the streets.
He said the Federal Government had provided $88 million of additional funding to Customs to increase screening of international mail, air cargo and sea cargo to stop illegal firearms and drugs getting in.
“Inspection rates of international mail and air cargo will increase by 25 and 33 per cent respectively and the examination of sea cargo in the major ports of Sydney and Melbourne will increase by nearly 20 per cent,’’ the minister said in a statement.
That would result in an additional 1500 containers being physically examined by Customs officers, he said.