In one of Australia's largest drug hauls, authorities have seized 274kg of ephedrine hidden in a shipment of rice from India and arrested four people, including an Indian.
Four people have been charged for their alleged bid to import and distribute drugs here worth an estimated $200 million, Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Wednesday said in a statement.
One of the four was arrested by Indian authorities after being tipped by AFP's International Network. The Indian is involved in organising the ephedrine and sending the consignment to Australia.
"One of the largest single seizures of ephedrine in the country was a result?of a joint operation involving AFP, Department of Agriculture and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS)," AFP said.
It is estimated that 274kg of ephedrine could be used to manufacture up to 200kg of crystal methamphetamine, worth up to $200 million.
The operation began in July 2013, following the examination of a consignment that arrived in Melbourne from India containing bags labelled as 'basmati rice'.
The consignment, containing an estimated 3,600 bags of rice, was subjected to a physical biosecurity examination by ACBPS officers, who identified a crystalline substance loosely distributed throughout the rice in some of the bags.
The ACBPS subsequently confirmed the substance was ephedrine.
On July 24 this year, AFP commenced a controlled delivery of the consignment to a storage facility at the Melbourne suburb of Springvale and in August the consignment was transported to a storage facility in Fairfield near Sydney.
Two days ago, AFP officers executed nine search warrants in Melbourne and Sydney. Evidence seized included $255,000 in cash.
AFP's National Manager Crime Operations Ian McCartney said this operation is a testament to the combined efforts of the AFP, international and domestic partner agencies in stopping criminals from importing drugs into Australia.
"The AFP and partner agencies have dismantled this multinational syndicate and significantly stemmed the flow of narcotics on to Australian streets," said McCartney.
"Our best weapon in combating these multinational syndicates is close collaboration between partner agencies here and overseas. This operation is a fantastic example of how these collaborations can lead to great results that deliver for the community," he added.