Three arrested in largest meth bust in Australian history
THE biggest methamphetamine bust in Australia's history has left three alleged drug king pins behind bars and stripped an international crime syndicate of almost half a billion dollars in profits.
Police confirmed on Thursday that a record 584kg of the drug "ice" had been taken off the streets following a four-month investigation into suspicious containers being imported into Australia and sent to a Sydney factory.
The breakthrough came in February when drugs were found in a chemical shipment from Shenjing in southern China.
Three men, a 21-year-old from New-Zealand, a 32-year-old from Singapore and 51-year-old from Hong Kong, were arrested as they allegedly attempted to collect the drugs from undercover federal police in Sydney on Wednesday.
The haul smashed the 300kg record set in June last year.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione described ice as an insidious drug that "sends people mad" and said it was very fortunate someone had chosen to "make that call" which sparked the investigation last November.
All three accused men have been refused bail.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said he was in contact with Chinese authorities and investigations were continuing.
EARLIER: More than half a tonne of ice, worth up to $438 million, was seized in Sydney and three people have been arrested in the largest drug bust of methamphetamines in Australian history.
The sting involved the Joint Organised Crime Group, including the Australian Federal Police, Customs, New South Wales Police, NSW Crime Commission and the Australian Crime Commission.
Authorities have arrested a 21-year-old Australian, a 32-year-old Singaporean and a 51-year-old Hong Kong national when they attempted to pick up the drugs.
All were expected to face Sydney Central Local Court today, on three counts of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, which can carry a penalty of life in prison.
The sting was sparked by a single phone to NSW Police's Asian Crime Squad in September last year.
In February, Customs authorities identified four sea cargo consignments linked to the investigation.
On Friday last week, police found 38 plastic bags containing a crystalline substance in six one tonne bags, marked as a cleaning chemical sodium metabisulphite.
The substance found tested positive as methamphetamine.
AFP Commissioner Tony Negus said the syndicate showed an understanding of law enforcement methodology and went to considerable lengths to escape detection.
"This operation demonstrates that the AFP and its partners have the capability to detect and dismantle the most sophisticated organised crime groups," Commissioner Negus said.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the vital ground work by the state's Asian Crime Squad was essential in the case, and led to the multi-agency investigation.
Enquiries will continue, and the AFP have not ruled out more arrests.