Three Melbourne men have been arrested and around 100 kilograms of methamphetamine worth an estimated $52.5million seized after a multi-agency law enforcement operation in Melbourne on Thursday night.
Law enforcement agencies say that if they had not intervened to prevent the lab becoming fully operational, it would have been one of the largest illicit clandestine labs in Victoria’s history.
Raid by Joint Organised Crime Taskforce
The Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF) – comprising members of the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission – found several barrels of liquid methamphetamine and what investigators say were “significant precursor chemicals” indicating that a large-scale clandestine drug laboratory was under construction.
A 41-year-old Niddrie man and a 48-year-old Darraweit-Guim man were arrested at a residential property near Melbourne Airport, where the laboratory was found inside a shed. A 47-year-old Hadfield man was arrested at his home.
The men have all been charged with attempting to possess commercial quantities of unlawfully imported border controlled drugs, namely methamphetamine.
Pandemic has increased street price of drugs
According to a statement released by the taskforce, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a spike in the estimated street value of illicit drugs, with the liquid methamphetamine seized overnight believed to be worth around $52.5-million.
“Organised criminals such as those arrested today continue to attempt to prey on our community and push harmful illicit drugs onto our streets, but we remain one step ahead,” said the AFP’s Southern Command Acting Commander Investigations.
“This operation shows that police are keeping a watch on every corner and will continue to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in criminal activity.”
Potential to inflict enormous community harm
Commander Mick Frewen of the Victoria Police Crime Command said a clandestine laboratory of this size had the potential to inflict enormous harm on the Victorian community.
“We know that the trafficking and use of drugs is an enormous driver of serious and organised crime across the state, and this certainly hasn’t stopped even during the lockdown periods,” he said.
“Victoria Police will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to deter and disrupt this offending, as well as targeting the associated unexplained wealth, and today’s result should send a strong message that we absolutely will not tolerate this criminal activity.”