Billion-dollar illegal drug-smugglers were not customs brokers or trusted traders

Late last week the Australian Border Force (ABF) reported that three people had been arrested and charged in relation to Australia’s “largest ever onshore methamphetamine seizure” of 1.6 metric tonnes (1.76 U.S. tons).

It was widely reported that the suspects were customs brokers. However, this was not in fact true.

This error in the general media – which was not made by FreightWaves – appears to have had its origins in the joint media statement by the authorities describing the trio as “trusted insiders.” A press conference by the authorities also referred to two of the people being “customs agents” and “customs brokers.”

Executives from local industry representative group, the Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA), met with the Australian Border Force Commissioner. The FTA subsequently issued a notice confirming that two of the suspects, a 37-year old female, and a 37-year old male, “are not and never have been licensed customs brokers in Australia.”

The FTA confirmed that the company of which the male is a managing director does not have “Trusted Trader” status.

The ABF has since confirmed that references made to “customs agents” and “customs brokers” were “inaccurate.” The ABF has also said that “no further comment will be made at this time.”

However, in an intriguing twist, the FTA reports that the company was involved in the business of importation in the Australian city of Melbourne.

The details of the third individual, a 38-year old male, are largely unknown.

FreightWaves has contacted the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in an attempt to unravel the mystery.

According to the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Border Force, the three people described above (two men and one woman) were arrested and charged late last week after police executed a series of raids across the city of Melbourne.

Police allege that the trio were involved in the importation of more than 1.6 tonnes of illegal drugs (mostly methamphetamine and a comparatively small amount of heroin). The three were each charged with two criminal offenses relating to the importation of a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

The drugs, described as a “huge haul” and “Australia’s largest onshore ice seizure,” were detected in vacuum-sealed packages of stereo speakers originating from Bangkok, Thailand.

As previously reported, Australia, and southeast Asia, are currently experiencing an upsurge in seizures of illegal drugs, particularly methamphetamine in all its forms. An increase in the frequency and volume of meth seized by the authorities is an indicator that more meth is being produced or smuggled into Australia.

In the 2019-20 financial year (which runs from July each year to the following June) to the end of October 2019, the ABF has made 106 detections of precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of “Amphetamine Type Stimulants” (which includes methamphetamine and excludes MDMA) with a total weight of over 1.7 tonnes. 

In the 2018-2019 financial year the ABF made 325 detections of precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of “Amphetamine Type Stimulants” with a total weight of over 2.6 tonnes. There were 334 detections in the 2017-18 financial year, with a total weight of 5.1 tonnes.