It’s the biggest drug bust in Western Australian history, 321 kilograms of methamphetamine allegedly destined for sale on WA streets.
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WA Police’s biggest-ever drug bust has seized 321 kilograms of the drug, mostly concealed in Chinese tea packaging, along with more than $1.4 million in cash.
Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan confirmed that the drugs, which would have yielded about 3.2 million ‘hits’ and fetched hundreds of millions on the street, were seized as the result of a continuing operation between state and federal police and the Australian Crime Commission.
He called the haul a “hammer blow” to the organised criminal syndicate “peddling this misery” in WA.
Mr Keenan joined WA Police acting commissioner Gary Dreibergs and other officials in Perth on Thursday to reveal the bust and congratulate the officers involved.
Police have charged four Hong Kong nationals, three of whom are in the country illegally and one on a visitors’ visa, ACC chief executive Chris Dawson confirmed.
On Tuesday after stopping a car in Willetton and arresting the 18-year-old driver, they searched a Canning Vale home and seized 316 kilograms of meth concealed in Chinese tea packaging inside 10 suitcases, WA Police acting deputy commissioner Michelle Fyfe said.
Following an arrest of the 19-year-old occupant, they were led to search an Adelaide Terrace apartment in Perth’s CBD and a Hay Street hotel room, where they seized another 43 grams and 4.9 kilograms of ice respectively and arrested another two men, aged 21 and 26, she said.
She said it was “frightening” to imagine that this quantity of ice was destined to be used by members of the community.
The men have each been charged with possession of illicit drugs with intent to sell or supply and possession of stolen or unlawfully obtained property. They all appeared on Wednesday at Perth Magistrates Court and were remanded in custody.
Mr Dawson said intelligence informing the local investigation came through the ACC-led Eligo National Task Force, which had been tracking organised criminals cash flows for about two years.
The task force, comprising the ACC, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, other federal agencies, federal police and state and territory police forces, was part of a “global attack” on organised crime syndicates in South East Asia.
The investigation was continuing and the team would work with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Acting commissioner Dreibergs said the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Drug Use Monitoring in Australia project, plus waste-water analysis, were showing increasing methamphetamine use in the community.
“It affects the behaviour of offenders which makes it even more concerning for our officers. You see the community damage and the risk of violent behaviour that comes with it,” he said.
“[This] puts our officers at risk more than ever … when I was an officer in my young days you didn’t have people impacted by methamphetamine, and more violent and unpredictable than they would normally be.
“People are making a massive amount of money … people who are very organised in this space.
“This is the old supply and demand story. You’ve got demand, people are going to fill that with supply like any other business.”
Minister Keenan agreed there would always be ice entering Australia and so prevention and education were critical.
He said the National Ice Taskforce, led by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay, was advising the government on how to improve education in the community, reduce demand and improve the health response at a national level.
The taskforce represents an increasing political focus on ice use in Australia and an evolution from looking at it as purely a police matter.
In March, the ACC published The Australian Methylamphetamine Market: The National Picture, the first comprehensive national snapshot of ice and the role organised crime plays in its distribution, to inform the national response.
In April, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the establishment of the National Ice Taskforce, entrusted with developing a National Ice Action Strategy including education and health responses as well as law enforcement.
Mr Lay and fellow taskforce members Sally McCarthy and Richard Murray spent eight weeks travelling Australia to hear first-hand from people dealing with the impacts of ice in communities, with a particular focus on regional Australia.
They received more than 1300 submissions, held seven community consultations and spoke to experts in drug treatment, health care, education, research and law enforcement.
Federal MPs also held community consultations to contribute to this body of information.
On July 23, Mr Abbott presented the National Ice Taskforce interim report to the Council of Australian Governments outlining the six priority areas for the national strategy.
The strategy is due to be finalised by the end of the year.
A Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement is simultaneously at work, focusing purely on the law enforcement response to the ice problem in Australia.
‘Largest ever WA ice bust’ nets $320 million worth of meth, more than $1 million cash
Police in Perth have confiscated 320 kilograms of methamphetamine worth $320 million, as well as $1.2 million in cash, in what has been described as WA’s largest ever ice seizure.
The drugs were seized in a joint operation yesterday between WA Police and the Australian Crime Commission.
This seizure is a hammer blow for the organised criminals who peddle in ice.Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan
Arrest warrants were executed at three residences, in Canning Vale and the Perth CBD.
Most of the drugs, about 316 kilograms, were found hidden in packages of Chinese tea at a house in Canning Vale.
An apartment on Adelaide Terrace and a hotel on Hay Street in the city were also raided.
Four Hong Kong nationals, ranging in age from 19 to 26, have been charged over the seizure.
Three of those men are believed to have been in Australia illegally, the fourth was on a visa.
The four men have already appeared in court and were remanded in custody.
Haul a ‘hammer blow’ to criminals, Keenan says
Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said it was a significant haul.
“This latest seizure, this largest seizure in Western Australian history, is an example of the dividends that are being paid by the unprecedented cooperation between Commonwealth and state law enforcement,” he said.
“They have taken at least 320 kilograms of this terrible drug off the streets. That would have equated to 3.2 million individual hits of ice, with a street value of upwards of $320 million.
“This seizure is a hammer blow for the organised criminals who peddle in ice.”
Police said they feared what could have happened if the drugs had not been confiscated.
“[It] can only be described as frightening that this was going to hit our streets, this was going to be taken by members of our community,” WA Police acting deputy commissioner Michelle Fyfe said.
WA Police Minister Liza Harvey said the operation would put a significant dent in the ice market.
“I cannot tell you the impact that will have on the families, and the relatives and the friends of the meth addicts who wreak havoc on our community,” she said.
String of drug busts
This is the third major methamphetamine bust in the state in the past couple of months.
In August, police arrested three men and impounded a yacht off Western Australia’s north-west coast after seizing more than 20 kilograms of methamphetamine from a unit in Perth.
Officers from the Australian Federal Police and Organised Crime Squad seized the drug — also known as ice — and almost $1 million from the Perth unit as part of a National Anti-Gang Squad operation.
They also found 11 guns, including a sawn-off shotgun and a homemade machine gun.
In July, methamphetamine with a street value of $21 million was seized along with $100,000 cash.
Five people from WA, Queensland and New South Wales were charged over the seizure in the northern Perth suburb of Karrinyup.