More than $16.3-million of methylamphetamine is off the streets after it was seized as part of an operation by the Joint Agency Ice Strike Team (JAIST).
The drugs were being smuggled into Australia and were incorporated into 11 artworks. The haul means that since the team was formed in early 2019 it has seized more than 840 kilograms of illicit drugs.
The strike team comprises South Australia Police, Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Taxation Office, Department of Home Affairs, and Australian Transactions and Analysis Centre.
Began in February when suspicious artworks detected
According to a statement released by South Australia Police, the operation began in February when 11 pieces of artwork were detected and seized by Australian Border Force after an inspection of cargo.
After conducting an analysis, they established that the artworks contained methylamphetamine, which is more commonly known as ‘ice’. It is a kind of amphetamine which is a potent central nervous system stimulant.
In June, JAIST investigators then conducted further analysis and examination of the items which, on initial examination appeared, to be works of art.
After being broken into smaller pieces, the 11 items weighed 32.75 kg and were found to be a mixture of methamphetamine and some other binding/cutting agents.
Drugs were of good quality and equal to 32 000 street deals.
Officer in Charge of the Drug and Organised Crime Task Force, Detective Chief Inspector Darren Fielke, said forensic science determined the methamphetamine was of good quality.
“This seizure equates to 32 750 street deals with a street value of approximately $16.3-million,” he said. “This highlights how innovative importers and traffickers of methamphetamine can be to get their product in [to Australia].”
Officer in Charge of the Serious and Organised Crime Branch, Detective Superintendent Steve Taylor, said that although no arrests were made, it was a success to get this quantity of drugs off the street.
“This result is part of a harm-minimisation strategy to remove drugs from the streets,” Taylor said. “Organised crime needs to be nervous; we have a lot of good people in the branch working together to stop these criminal networks.”
He added: “Crime in the community is not just a policing problem. It is [the police’s] job to stop it, but the community should step up and say something if they see it.”
AFP Detective acting Superintendent Gavin Stone said the haul had prevented crime syndicates from making tens of millions of dollars in expected profits, which could have been used to fund other illegal activities – including more drug importations or gun purchases.