At least six men were charged in Australia Saturday, after police seized drugs worth nearly $1.5 billion Australian dollars (U.S. $1.28 billion), making it the second-largest seizure of drugs in the country ever. Police officials said that the men were charged with drug importation offenses, as the drugs were sent to Australia from Hamburg, Germany in a single consignment.
The men, aged between 23 and 34, were arrested when they were examining boxes from the consignment, which contained over 4,000 pounds of MDMA, the key ingredient in ecstacy, and nearly 2,000 pounds of methamphetamine, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Police said that a months-long international investigation had led them to the consignment, which reached Australia Nov. 19. Australia's Joint Organized Crime Group, which includes the Australian Federal Police, the New South Wales Police and the Customs and the Crime Commission, was working with the German federal police, as well as Interpol and its partners for the investigation.
"By any measure this is an enormous seizure of illicit narcotics that have been removed from distribution on our streets," Andrew Colvin, the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police said, according to ABC News, adding that the drugs were hidden inside furniture.
"Those we've arrested today will allege they're part of the importation. Where they sit in the scale of importation is yet to be determined," Colvin said, according to ABC News, adding: "This obviously has linkages overseas that will take us, I'm sure, into Europe and parts of Asia. There will be a number of people involved, probably a number of organized crime groups." Those charged may face sentences of up to life imprisonment if found guilty.
Prime minister Tony Abbott, immigration minister Scott Morrison and justice minister Michael Keenan released a joint statement praising the work of the country's police forces.
"The joint operation between Commonwealth and NSW law enforcement and border agencies has put a major dent in the operations of organized crime in Australia," they said in the statement, according to ABC News, adding: "These agencies have worked tirelessly to ensure these drugs did not reach our streets. Potentially thousands of lives have been saved today as a result of the excellent work of our police and law enforcement agencies."