Australian authorities have busted a drug syndicate that allegedly attempted to import $1.26 billion worth of ice in push-up bras and paint bottles.
An international drug syndicate has been busted allegedly smuggling more than a billion dollars worth of ice into Australia, concealing it in bras and other items.
In the largest seizure of liquid methamphetamine in Australia's history, investigators discovered 720 litres of liquid methamphetamine disguised in gel push-up bras, paint bottles and art sets.
Four people have been charged over the import and manufacture of the drugs.
"This has resulted in 3.6 million individual hits of ice being taken off our streets with a street value of $1.26 billion," Justice Minister Michael Keenan told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
In early January, officers discovered 195 litres of liquid methamphetamine in gel bra inserts in a shipping container brought to Sydney from Hong Kong.
The Australian Federal Police then discovered a further 530 litres concealed in art supplies in storage containers at Miranda, Hurstville, Padstow and Kingsgrove.
It's believed the drugs were destined for Sydney's streets and beyond.
A 33-year-old man, a Hong Kong national, has been charged with importing a border-controlled substance in relation to the bras.
Three people - a 59-year-old male Chinese national, and a 37-year-old man and 52-year-old woman who are both Hong Kong nationals - have been charged with knowingly taking part in the manufacture of a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.
Investigations are ongoing and further charges could be filed, the Joint Organised Crime Group authorities said.
If convicted they face life imprisonment.
Australian Federal Police NSW Commander Chris Sheehan said he was "very, very confident" the syndicate had been disrupted.
"We are alleging that the people that we have arrested weren't just mere bit players, they were significant players within this criminal network," he said.
The cracks started to show in the international syndicate's local operation in November when an Australian Border Force officer at Sydney airport identified a high-risk passenger arriving from Hong Kong, who was believed to be part of a shore party for an international narcotics syndicate.
Shore parties are runners who do not have knowledge of who is directing them.
Last year, Australian Border Force intercepted 7.2 tonnes of narcotics at Australian borders, a "significant portion" of which was ice, NSW Regional Commander Tim Fitzgerald said.
"We have noticed a trend in recent times where syndicates will use liquids to conceal methylamphetamine so whether it's as a gel insert, whether it's within wine bottles, it certainly is a method of concealment that the syndicates are attempting to use," he said.
Up to 70 per cent of ice in Australia is believed to have been shipped through China, according to figures from the Australian Crime Commission.
Those figures have prompted a partnership where AFP officers have gone to China to partner with local agencies investigating drug trafficking in Taskforce Blaze.
It's the only time China has partnered with a foreign law enforcement agency.
"We've sent the AFP up there, we've sent the Australian Crime Commission up there and that focus, that investment in our international relationship, is achieving the sorts of dividends we're seeing today with this very significant drug bust," Mr Keenan said.
It's unclear what role Chinese authorities played in this investigation.