Record 1.7 tons of meth found hidden in loudspeakers bound for Australia

Credit: CBS News
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By: CBS News, Associated Press
February 8, 2019

Six people, including two Americans, were arrested after what authorities said Friday was the largest-ever seizure of methamphetamine on U.S. soil and the biggest drug haul bound for Australia.

More than 1.7 tons of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin were discovered on January 11, concealed within a shipment of loudspeakers on a ship at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport. The drugs were in two containers that were destined for Australia.

The drugs were found concealed inside dozens of metal boxes that were declared as "Single Loud Speakers," CBS Los Angeles reported. The seizure included 3,810 pounds of methamphetamine, 55.9 pounds of cocaine and 11.5 pounds of heroin. Police estimated the street value at $1.29 billion.

Australian authorities said it was also the largest haul of the drug intercepted while bound for Australia and would have provided around 17 million hits of the substance also known as ice.

Australian authorities said that the operation with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agency, Australian Federal Police and Victoria state police had stopped "a tsunami of ice" from reaching their shores.

Two U.S. citizens -- a 52-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman -- and four Australian citizens were arrested in the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales as part of the bust. They are believed to be involved with the U.S.-based transnational crime syndicate suspected of conducting the record shipment.

Police said the raid in the Melbourne suburb of Woodstock in which they were arrested also found "hundreds of thousands of dollars of proceeds of crime."

Police said that three of those arrested would appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday, charged with attempting to import illegal drugs. Two other Australians face the same charge.

Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Bruce Hill told reporters in Melbourne that police now believe Mexican cartels are actively targeting Australia.

"They have been sending smaller amounts over the years. This is now flagging intent Australia is now being targeted," he said. "The cartel is among one of the most powerful and violent drug trafficking syndicates in the world."

None of the agencies involved has further identified the cartel.

The operation also involved raids in British Columbia on Thursday by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which resulted in the seizure of "a significant quantity" of suspected proceeds of crime, police said.

Jason Halls, Victoria manager for the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, said the drugs would have had an "immeasurable" impact on the Australian community. He said sewage drug monitoring data showed Victoria state — which has a population of 6.3 million — was estimated to consume just over 2 tons of ice each year.

The previous record haul of methamphetamine seized in Australia was 1.3 tons in December 2017.