Crazy way crims smuggle illicit party drugs into Australia
In Adelaide last week, $20 million of cocaine was found hidden inside electronic safes mounted onto mobile welders sent from Greece.
In Melbourne, a nail beautician used flight attendants with padded bras and crotches to smuggle up to $8 million of heroin from Malaysia while a week earlier a Melbourne man was busted importing meth from Thailand hidden inside a shipment of treadmills.
Over the border and in late July a plane crash in PNG famously revealed a "black flight" drug run allegedly organised by the Italian Mafia organising their own planes and flights to smuggle cocaine to Australia, while on Friday a Sydney court jailed an Iranian man for the next 10 years for smuggling methamphetamine inside honey jars, sugar drinks and liquid polish.
Also on Friday in western Sydney two people now face 25 years in jail for allegedly trying to smuggle almost one tonne of meth hidden inside cans of coconut milk in an air consignment cargo from Thailand.
"This is a clever concealment but our highly-trained officers come across tens of thousands of packages a week and they know if something isn't right," ABF Acting NSW Regional Commander Matthew O'Connor said of the 600 litres of liquid methamphetamine haul.
Into the mix a few music speakers, ovens and fridges, ice-cream makers and microwaves, chilli sauce and noodles and the past 12 months reveals an explosion of drug trafficking in some of the weirdest, wackiest and ingenious ways.
Holy cow, late last year the Australian Federal Police even found 755kg of meth worth $560 million in "putrid" cow skins from Mexico. What a hide!
Both cop and crim have had to skill up to find and seek the hauls of narcotics that continue to come into the country by air and sea, despite COVID-19 related travel restrictions and upheaval in the wholesale shipments of goods from overseas, that account for most of seized large-scale illicit substances.
Such has been the ingenious concealments, before the coronavirus epidemic made passenger movements difficult, Mexican crime cartels had been dispatching their lieutenants to Australia to help unpack drug shipments which had been confounding hapless gangs here.
Almost 75 per cent of the methamphetamine that is seized in Australia starts life in China as a precursor drug before being cooked by the hundreds of tonnes in Myanmar then moved about South East Asia, notably Thailand and Malaysia, or moved to Mexico and Africa, notably Nigeria and South Africa to be shipped or flown here.
Some hauls come in bulk consignments of food goods particularly tea and coffee with criminals believing the odour might put sniffer dogs off but others are hidden in more elaborate ways.
Cmdr O'Connor said there is no product that criminals aren't hiding illicit goods in but added his officers were trained to be suspicious in nature.
"The end result of that is they use their intuition and when they see something that doesn't exactly look right they take that extra step that can lead to results," he said.
"Basically though if you can manufacture it, organised crime syndicates will endeavour to smuggle drugs and or weapons using that. Anything from water filters to furniture is big, embedded into the sides of bed mattresses, rice cookers have always been popular for some reason, drugs can be sewn into clothing, they can be impregnated in clothing … the types of seizures you get are so diverse and like the AFP said we have to be wary of the trends and adapt and respond appropriately. As the methods of concealments change so too do our approaches."
Cmd O'Connor said the cow hides seizure was the most curious in his experience.
"They were frozen animal raw hides and the meth was in the packages within the folded untreated hides that had bits of flesh and stuff hanging off them because they were untreated so that was a lot of effort and great work by our officers getting in there and getting dirty to retrieve the methamphetamines out of those hides," he said.
Last year an x-ray of a Caterpillar excavator made national headlines as it showed the arm packed with 380kg of cocaine worth more than $140 million, shipped to a property in Bungendore in NSW from South Africa. The shipment was allegedly to feed the cocaine market in the ski fields of the Snowy Mountains with several men arrested and currently before the courts. About the same time, a Brazilian student in Sydney was found guilty of hiding $645,000 worth of drugs hidden in children's books intercepted at Sydney Airport.
Last month a drug syndicate allegedly overloaded a Cessna aircraft with drugs when it took off from Papua New Guinea and crashed moments later. According to police, it was alleged greed and ineptitude led to a Melbourne-Sydney crime group linked to Italian organised crime with organising the 611kg $80 million worth of cocaine.
In the last month alone, the ABF seized drugs hidden in eskies, found 30 kgs of ice in ice cream machines from Mexico, found pseudoephedrine hidden in wedding invitations, jailed a Portuguese woman in WA for smuggling kilos of cocaine in toiletry bottles and in Melbourne intercepted $180 million worth of crystal meth hidden in furniture from Malaysia.
In an unrelated case a 35-year-old man was jailed for 10 years for a 300kg MDMA haul hidden in sacks of coffee beans from the Netherlands.
These are just the big hits with not a day going past where curiously hidden drugs are not seized. Even a COVID-19 busting hand sanitiser import was found to be less ethanol and more methamphetamine.
Originally published as Crazy way crims smuggle illicit party drugs into Australia