CANBERRA (DPA) - Four men have been arrested in Sydney after Australian police seized 400kg of illicit methamphetamine concealed in hundreds of bottles of sriracha chilli sauce.
The drugs, commonly known as ice or meth, are worth more than A$300 million (S$280 million), New South Wales Police said in a statement by e-mail on Thursday (Oct 31).
The Australian Border Force discovered the drugs hidden in 768 bottles of sriracha sauce in an air cargo consignment from the United States on October 15, after it arrived at a Sydney freight depot. Three of the four suspects were arrested last week and charged over the importation of a commercial quantity of the unlawful drugs. One other man was arrested on Thursday morning and will be charged, police said.
Australian officials say the country has a "serious epidemic" of drug use with an "insatiable demand" for illicit substances. It has led to smugglers trying to find new ways to import the drugs. An analysis of waste-water data early this year (2019) found Australians spent about A$9.3 billion on illicit drugs in a year, including on an estimated 9.6 tonnes of meth, the most consumed drugs in Australia.
In June, Melbourne authorities seized 1.6 tonnes of meth in the biggest ever onshore seizure of the drug. The delivery was discovered inside stereo speakers in a sea cargo consignment from Bangkok.
In August, authorities in Sydney seized a shipment of 755kg of ice - worth A$566 million - hidden inside raw cowhides from Mexico.
In April, authorities seized more than half a tonne of ice, worth A$438 million, hidden in commercial refrigerators from Singapore.