Shocking find inside mustard bottles
Mustard bottles were used in a brazen attempt to smuggle half a tonne of liquid methamphetamine into Australia from Chicago, police allege.
Four people appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday charged over the importation: Tung Nguyen, 29, Duc Nguyen, 34, Nhat Le, 28, and Helen Nguyen, 34.
The Australian Federal Police alleges that the liquid meth seizure is the largest in Victoria's history.
There were over 560 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine inside 1600 mustard bottles worth $123 million, the AFP says.
Methamphetamine is often transported in liquid form before undergoing a process at its end point in labs where it is cooked into crystal meth, or ice.
AFP investigators allege they have also identified the location of a clandestine laboratory in Melbourne linked to the liquid meth importation, with search warrants executed at a St Albans property at the weekend.
The court heard on Tuesday the brief of evidence would take longer than usual to prepare because of the "volume" involved.
Prosecutor Natasa Stevic said police had used phone intercepts with "thousands of calls and messages to be translated" from 22 phones, two tablets and 20 SIM cards.
CCTV footage and forensic examinations would also be used, the court heard.
Appearing over videolink in a green prison jumper, Tung Nguyen sighed and looked at the ceiling when he heard through an interpreter the case would not reappear in court for months.
But defence lawyer Alexis Kaczmarek said the wait was "reasonable given the scale of operations".
None of the four made an application for bail on Tuesday.
Investigations began on November 11, 2020, after the shipment was detected by Australian Border Force in air cargo, police allege.
The four suspects were charged on Friday.
Raids were also carried out over the weekend in St Albans, Sunshine and Sunshine North, and at commercial properties in Parkville and Sunshine.
Tung Nguyen, who is of Sunshine, has been charged with importing commercial quantities of border controlled drugs and attempted possession of border controlled drugs.
Duc Nguyen, of St Albans, and Nhat Le, of Albion, have both been charged with attempting to possess commercial quantities of border controlled drugs.
Helen Nguyen, of Albion, is facing a charge of possession of a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs.
Victoria Police Crime Command Assist Commissioner Bob Hill said the seizure was "satisfying".
"This is about law enforcement agencies working together to prevent the immense harm that serious and organised crime groups, regardless of where they are based across the world, wreak locally," he said.
"We are continuing to see groups prepared to take the risk of importing these drugs and so I can absolutely assure the community that you will continue to see police deliberately target that criminality."
The four will next appear in court on May 20, 2021.
Originally published as Shocking find inside mustard bottles