HK helps bust giant Australian Ice lab

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 April, 2006, 12:00am

Intelligence leads police Down Under to drug factory on farm

Federal police in Australia have busted the biggest Ice factory ever found in the country with the help of intelligence supplied by Hong Kong's police narcotics officers.

Australian police arrested seven people following a raid on the massive drugs lab in northern New South Wales.

The raid came after the Australian Federal Police received information from overseas law enforcement agencies on the import of a large volume of precursor drugs used to make crystal methamphetamine, more commonly known as the party drug Ice.

A Hong Kong police spokesman said: 'The Narcotics Bureau of the Hong Kong Police was one of the agencies assisting in the operation and was responsible for various intelligence exchanges with the Australian Federal Police.'

No arrests have been made in Hong Kong in connection to the case.

The spokesman said he could not comment further because investigations were still continuing.

Police found the laboratory on a remote property near the northern town of Murwillumbah on April 6. They said it contained 400 litres of precursor chemicals, enough to make 1 tonne of crystal methamphetamine.

The area, which police had under surveillance for six months, is surrounded by woodland and contained a number of buildings, including a secret underground room.

Federal agent Mike Phelan said police used new anti-drug laws that targeted the illegal import of ingredients used in the manufacture of drugs.

'This operation has disrupted a major syndicate operating out of New South Wales, which was allegedly using imported precursors that are hard to obtain and very expensive,' Mr Phelan said.

Speaking after the bust, he said the low-pressure hydrogenation method used at the lab was the same as that used in labs in Southeast Asia which were capable of making more than 500kg of Ice a week.

While Hong Kong Police say precursor drugs are not made here, the city is noted by the US Central Intelligence Agency as being a transit point for heroin and methamphetamine to regional and world markets.

Ingredients used to produce Ice, such as pseudoephedrine, are produced in vast quantities on the mainland - up to 400 tonnes per year, according to a US Drug Enforcement Agency report in 2003.

The seven arrested men, aged between 23 and 62, are facing charges of conspiracy to manufacture commercial quantities of controlled drugs, and conspiracy to pre-traffic commercial quantities of controlled precursors.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.


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