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Authorities find drugs worth millions hidden in maple syrup

June 15, 2023

A multi-million dollar international drug syndicate tried to smuggle methamphetamine in canola oil and maple syrup from Canada to Australia and New Zealand.

Two Australian police officials take a man into custody
A multi-million dollar international drug syndicate was busted by authorities of 3 nationsImage: Australian Federal Police/AP/picture alliance

A multi-million dollar international drug scheme which intended to import methamphetamine from Canada to Australia and New Zealand was busted by authorities on Thursday.

Officials from the three nations worked together for over five months to crack the syndicate which tried to smuggle the drugs by hiding them in shipments of maple syrup and canola oil.

Several local arrests were made in New Zealand and Australia.

Australia records four meth hauls

Canadian authorities in January alerted the Australian police that 2,900 liters (98,060 fluid ounces) of liquid meth had been hidden in 180 bottles of canola oil which was bound for Australia. 

The authorities swapped out the meth for a harmless substance and allowed the shipment to continue.

In this undated photo provided by the Australian Federal Police a jug alleged to contain methamphetamine is displayed in Melbourne
A jug alleged to contain methamphetamine is displayed in MelbourneImage: Australian Federal Police/AP/picture alliance

Once it reached Australia, two men moved what they believed were drugs to a storage location near Melbourne.

Two more such shipments arrived in May and June. A shipment that arrived in December was also linked to the syndicate, said the Australian police.

In total, the Australian police intercepted four separate drug hauls weighing more than six tons. Charges have been filed against six men who were arrested.

New Zealand's largest drug interception

In New Zealand, 713 kilograms of methamphetamine were intercepted at the border. The drugs were found hidden in a shipment of maple syrup.

This is the largest interception of methamphetamine in the country, said Police Commissioner Andrew Coaster.

New Zealand police said that the drug harm index figures reflected that the meth would have caused close to $486 million (Є449 million) worth of social harm.

The drugs were part of a wider shipment bound for the Australian market, added Coaster. Six men were arrested in New Zealand and will appear in a court in Auckland.

A collaborative effort

"International drug trade and organized crime groups are creating havoc and harm in communities around the globe," said Coaster.

He added that the best way to "disrupt, intercept and keep communities safe is to work collaboratively with other agencies and nations."

The assistant Police Commissioner in Australia Hilda Sirec also said the seizures and arrests highlight the damage that law enforcement could inflict on transnational drug trafficking networks by working together.

"We are using our combined reach to disrupt drug supply chains and hold criminals to account, no matter where they are in the world," she said.

ns/jsi (AP, dpa)

Australia makes massive meth bust