Five men have been arrested in Western Australia over the importation of 77 kilograms of heroin, which the Australian Border Force allegedly found hidden in a consignment of industrial kitchen equipment that arrived from Malaysia.
It is believed to be the biggest heroin seizure in WA’s history.
Australian Federal Police and Western Australia Police Force, with the assistance of the ABF, arrested the men after ABF officers at the Perth container facility found the illicit drugs last month.
The consignment was targeted as a result of information provided from the international networks of the ABF and AFP, which collaborate to focus on offshore serious and organised crime groups targeting Australia.
After an x-ray at the container facility uncovered anomalies in the consignment, ABF officers examined the items and allegedly found 220 blocks of heroin hidden inside cavities in the equipment.
Drugs seized and replaced with substitute packages
The illicit drugs were removed by the Federal Police before the consignment was released for collection, and it was delivered to a business premises in Bibra Lake, a suburb of Perth, in early June.
“Three wooden crates containing the substituted packages sat inside the warehouse unopened for a week while the business was open and operating,” the AFP said in a statement.
“The premises was under surveillance on Tuesday (8 June) when two men arrived at the business and the containers were opened. Less than 20 minutes later, the two men carried black duffel bags to their car and drove away.”
Police stopped the car and arrested a 47-year-old man and his 25-year-old son from Thornlie in Perth, as well as a 24-year-old man from New South Wales. When they opened the duffel bags, they found the packages that AFP forensics specialists had created to replace the seized heroin.
A few minutes after stopping the trio’s car, police intercepted another vehicle they had allegedly seen driving in convoy with the first vehicle after it left the Bibra Lake premises.
Owner of the is business alleged to be the importer
They arrested the 26-year-old driver, who had travelled to Perth four days earlier from NSW with the 24-year-old man from the other vehicle.
Authorities also searched the Bibra Lake business premises of a 36-year-old Coolbellup man, who they will allege imported the drugs.
AFP Western Commander, John Tanti, said the collaborative efforts of the three agencies had prevented drug traffickers from distributing heroin to potentially 770,000 people and causing widespread community harm.
“We know that illicit drug use causes a significant burden to the Australian economy, and had this importation of heroin made its way into the community the estimated total social cost, for this seizure alone, is around $100-million – through crime, loss of productivity, emergency treatment and increased health care costs,” he said.