SYDNEY (AFP) - Enough chemicals to make A$3.6 billion (S$3.8 billion) of pure methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug known as Ice, has been seized by the Australian authorities, they said on Friday (Oct 6).
The 3.9 tonne haul of liquid ephedrine, concealed in a shipment of green tea bottles from Thailand, is the biggest bust of the illegal substance in Australian history.
Australia has the world's highest per capita consumption of crystal meth and the country has become an increasingly attractive destination for drug-smugglers, with street prices soaring.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said 350kg of meth hidden in buckets of plaster from Thailand had also been intercepted in two operations carried out by police and border forces over the past three weeks.
"The linked and simultaneous investigations began with information originating from Thai authorities about suspected large-scale imports of illicit drugs into Sydney," he said.
Two people were arrested over the ephedrine bust, which the government said was enough to produce 3.6 tonnes of ice, and another for the meth. Their nationalities were not given.
Methamphetamine use in Australia has tripled in the past five years.
An Australian Crime Commission report in 2015 found that while US$80 (S$109) bought 1g of Ice in China, the estimated 270,000 users in Australia had to pay US$500 for the same amount.
"The success of these operations is a direct result of the strong relationships established between our Australian law enforcement agencies and those overseas," said Mr Keenan.
"Keeping illicit drugs out of country and off our streets is one of the highest priorities of this government."