| 4.8°C Dublin

x-ray discovery MDMA worth €48.5 million shipped to Australia hidden in excavator


MDMA was discovered concealed inside an excavator shipped to Australia. Pic: National Crime Agency

MDMA was discovered concealed inside an excavator shipped to Australia. Pic: National Crime Agency

MDMA was discovered concealed inside an excavator shipped to Australia. Pic: National Crime Agency

Three men are due before a London court in January after police discovered 450 kilos of MDMA hidden within an digger that was shipped into the Port of Brisbane from the UK earlier this year.

An x-ray of the machine revealed the drugs haul, worth an estimated €48.5 million, hidden in its arms.

Forensics officers examined the machine and removed 226 plastic bags containing a crystalline substance.

Laboratory tests revealed it to be MDMA, better known as ecstasy.

Three men were arrested in London and two in Western Sydney following the seizure in March of this year.

Two of the men believed to be involved in arranging the importation and exportation were arrested in Putney by NCA officers on June 15.

A third man was detained outside his home address in Greenwich on October .

All three were charged with conspiring to export class A drugs.

They are next due to appear at Kingston Crown Court on January 15.

A Western Sydney construction worker, aged 33-years-old, was later arrested along with another Sydney man, aged 42.

Police allege the pair shipped the excavator from England knowing the drugs were inside.

The arrests follow a joint investigation that was launched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the AFP after Australian Border Force officers found the concealment within the specially adapted boom of the machinery on March 15.

Further investigations revealed how a London-based crime group had imported drugs into the UK, with the intention to then export them in heavy plant machinery to Australia.

Chris Hill, Senior Investigating Officer for the National Crime Agency, described the attempt as a global conspiracy to import huge amounts of class A drugs into the UK, then out to Australia.

“Through close working with our Australian partners and analysis of encrypted messages recovered as part of Op Venetic, we were able to uncover this highly organised conspiracy and prevent the criminals behind it from making millions in illicit profits,” he said.

“Drug trafficking incites violence, spreads fear and exploits the vulnerable. Disrupting the OCGs involved, particularly those at the top of the chain with international reach, is a top priority for the NCA.”

ABF Assistant Commissioner East and Port Operations Erin Dale said if the drugs hadn't been caught, the impacts could have been devastating.

“If this hadn't been detected it would have landed on our streets and could have had a tragic impact on individuals and families,” she said.

“Criminals might think their concealment methods will allow them to sneak drugs over our borders, but they won't.

“In recent months, we've detected half a tonne of cocaine hidden inside frozen banana pulp, half a tonne of liquid meth concealed in mustard bottles and we've stopped multiple shipments of meth in white goods.”

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Online Editors