Police make Australian record drug seizure of meth

SYDNEY (AP) - Australian police on Thursday announced their largest ever seizure of methamphetamine, an illicit drug known as ice, that was smuggled into Sydney hidden in shipments of chemicals from China.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said the 585 kilograms of the drug would have sold for A$438 million (S$ 553 million).

The haul was almost double the previous Australian record of 306 kilograms of ice seized in Sydney in July last year.

Three men - an Australian, a Singaporean and a Hong Hong passport holder - will appear in a Sydney court on Thursday charged with attempting to possess the drug. They face life sentences if convicted.

Australia is becoming an increasingly lucrative market for international drug networks because of the strength of the local currency and resilience of the national economy compared to other wealthy nations.

The police investigation began in September last year in response to a tip-off from the public. Police and customs officials identified four suspicious shipping containers on Sydney's wharfs in February. The containers had been shipped to Sydney from the port city of Shen Zhen in southern China.

Police said they found 38 plastic bags of ice concealed inside six 1 metric ton (1.1 U.S. ton) bags marked as the cleaning chemical sodium metabisulphite.

They substituted the drugs with a harmless substance then allowed the consignments to be delivered.

Police said the three men were arrested at a warehouse in western Sydney suburb on Wednesday.