Australia busts five over HK$1.3b meth hidden in kayaks from China

US$183m haul of illegal stimulant also known as Ice found in kayak cargo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 9:56am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 10:01am


Watch: Kayaks full of meth seized by Australian Customs

Authorities in Australia have intercepted a 183kg shipment of methamphetamine from China in the latest in a series of busts that have heightened fears over the illicit drugs trade between the two nations.

Worth about US$183 million on the street, the drugs were found after an X-ray inspection of a consignment of kayaks at a container port in Sydney, police said yesterday.

Four Taiwanese were arrested while trying to collect the substance following a controlled delivery by the police to a storage centre. An Australian man was also arrested at his home.

Commonly known as Ice, meth is one of the most popular drugs in Australia, with a United Nations study last year suggesting that more 2 per cent of Australians use the highly addictive stimulant.

Only the Marshall Islands and the Philippines have higher usage rates in the region.

"It's not the biggest or the smallest, but 180kg is certainly a sizeable shipment to intercept," a spokesman for the Australian Federal Police said.

"It equates to about 180,000 hits of meth," added the spokesman, acknowledging the drug's "ongoing" impact on society.

Both Australian customs and police declined to name the port of origin, saying it could jeopardise future targeting.

However, according to UN data, most major shipments of methamphetamine to Australia originate in Guangdong, where mainland and Hong Kong organised crime groups dominate the illicit drugs market.

In the last 14 months, Australian authorities seized more than 1,000kg of meth in liquid and crystal form, with much of it coming from Hong Kong and the mainland.

Two Hongkongers were arrested last May after attempting to smuggle US$42 million of meth into Sydney disguised as shampoo and hair products.

Another Hongkonger, Cheung Tuen, was arrested in April while attempting to bring 585kg of meth into Sydney via Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's triads are also known to export the controlled chemicals - such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine - needed to manufacture meth.

The syndicates take advantage of lax controls in China's chemical industry to re-route the materials to meth manufacturing centres both regionally and globally.

Australian authorities declined to comment on the involvement of organised crime groups in the latest bust.

However, a UN report last year on emerging drug trends in Australia highlighted the role of domestic and transnational organised crime groups in smuggling meth and its precursor chemicals into the country.

Additional reporting by Andrea Chen