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Australia makes country's largest-ever 'ice' bust

05 may 2011, 12:29
Australian police said Thursday they had arrested four people and seized 239 kilograms (527 pounds) of methamphetamine, or ice, in the country's biggest bust of its kind, AFP reports.

The drug would have been worth up to Aus$50 million ($54 million) on the streets and was found in a series of raids across Sydney and Perth, in which cash and a loaded semi-automatic pistol were also uncovered.

The previous biggest seizure of methamphetamine was 219 kilograms in Melbourne in 2008.

Of the four arrested, two were Australian, aged 38 and 21. Another was a Dutch national, 43, and the last a 41-year-old from Belgium, both described by police as "highly placed members of a sophisticated global syndicate".

Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Kevin Zuccato said the two Europeans were running the operation out of Sydney's eastern suburbs, where they provided safe houses to store the ice.

Three of the men have been charged with trafficking commercial quantities of controlled drugs and the other with possession.

"This investigation strikes a significant blow to organised criminal groups operating in Australia," said Zuccato.

He added that the sophistication of transnational crime syndicates and the strength of the domestic currency was making Australia an increasingly popular target for drug trafficking operations.

"Organised crime syndicates no doubt look at Australia and see a lucrative drug market and a strong currency compared to the US dollar," said Zuccato.

"But they should also be looking over their shoulders. These total seizures demonstrate improvements in the effectiveness and cohesion of Australian law enforcement to combat organised crime and drug syndicates."

The record haul caps a strong year for Australian police, who have seized more than 1.8 tonnes of drugs since last July.

It includes 692 kilograms of cocaine (an increase of 76 percent on the previous year), 431 kilograms of amphetamine (an increase of 44 percent) and 315 kilograms of heroin (an increase of 128 percent).

In an unrelated case, a 38-year-old Australian man was scheduled to appear in a Sydney court Thursday charged with importing 27 kilograms of heroin.

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