This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force.
Editor's note: Footage of the arrest and stills of the seized drugs are available via hightail.
Australian authorities have seized the largest heroin shipment ever detected in Australia after intercepting 450kg of the illicit drug inside a container of tiles sent from Malaysia to Melbourne.
A Malaysian National has been arrested following the joint AFP and Australian Border Force operation. The man was charged on Thursday (14 October 2021).
He was charged with:
Import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drugs, namely 451kg of heroin; and attempted possession of a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
He faced the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday (15 October 2021). He was remanded in custody and is due to next appear in court in January 2022.
The heroin, which has an estimated street value of $140 million, was detected in a sea freight container of ceramic tiles addressed to a Melbourne business.
The shipment arrived at the Port of Melbourne on 29 September 2021, where ABF officers examined the container and located packages with distinctive red heroin branding. Testing on the substance within those packages returned a presumptive result for heroin.
AFP investigators assessed a total of 1290 packages containing heroin within the shipment. The total estimated weight of 451kg, which is about the same weight as a grand piano, made it the largest onshore detection of heroin in Australia.
The heroin was removed from the shipment and the consignment delivered to an industrial precinct near Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport on Thursday, 7 October.
On 15 October AFP investigators executed a number of search warrants on business and residential premises.
Stopping these drugs from reaching our communities has saved lives and reduced drug-associated personal and property crime, loss of productivity, and health care costs.
The AFP works closely with its international partners in the fight against drug trafficking.
AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Southern Command, Krissy Barrett said the AFP has strong and enduring relationships with its international partners in the fight against drug trafficking.
"We have a strong relationship with the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) and in particular the RMP Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department," she said.
"We continue to work together in identifying and disrupting transnational organised crime syndicates that seek to harm both our nations and generate millions of dollars of profits from criminal activity.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Barrett said that sadly there was one death in the Australian community for approximately every two kilograms of heroin consumed*.
"It is important to note that in addition to the arrests made, the primary outcome of this operation is the preservation of an estimated 225 lives" she said.
"It is common for drug traffickers to add other substances to heroin to increase the volume and, therefore make bigger profits.
"This involves manufacturing heroin with industrial, toxic chemicals that remain in the end product.
"Anything from paracetamol to poisons can be added so you will never know what you are ingesting, or how your body will react. Unfortunately for many users, their bodies shut down and they die."
ABF Commander Chris Holzeimer said that despite pandemic-related border disruptions, the ABF continued to effectively disrupt attempts by criminal syndicates to bring narcotics into Australia.
"The ABF remains alert to all attempts to illegally import dangerous narcotics into the country. Syndicates might vary their concealment efforts, but our officers have the technical expertise to defeat them," Commander Holzeimer said.
"Today's outcome highlights that when we work together with our law enforcement partners, we can achieve our mission of protecting the Australian community. Our simple message is do not smuggle narcotics into Australia: we will detect and disrupt your attempt, and you will face severe legal consequences."
*The figure of one death per approximately 2kg of heroin consumed has been calculated by using the heroin-induced death rate from the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report (1.9 deaths per 100,000), the ABS population statistics (Australia's population of 25,704,340) and the latest ACIC heroin consumption (1021kg nationally). To calculate it is 25,704,340 divided by 100,000, then multiply by 1.9 = 488. Then divide the amount of heroin consumed 1021kg by 488 deaths nationally from heroin use = approximately one death per 2kg. Note to media:
Media are encouraged to include help-seeking information in stories about illicit drugs to minimise any negative impact on people in the community. The following services provide people with access to support and information.
For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drug treatment services call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. Access free 24/7 drug and alcohol counselling online at counsellingonline.org.au. For information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment or support, go to turningpoint.org.au. Media enquiries:
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297
ABF Media: (02) 6264 2244