September 25, 2022

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The largest shipment of the deadly opioid fentanyl into Australia was discovered inside ammunition boxes imported to Melbourne, the Australian Federal Police said.

More than 5,000,000 doses of the drug were seized on February 3, when Australian Border Force staff found 11 kilograms of pure powdered fentanyl and 30 kilograms of methamphetamine inside in an industrial wooden lathe that arrived from Canada in December 2021.

The methamphetamine had an estimated street value of $27,000,000.

Officers wore protective bio hazard suits to protect against any skin contact with the drug. (AFP)
More than 11kg of pure powdered fentanyl and 30kg of methamphetamine were hidden inside in an industrial wooden lathe sent from Canada that arrived at the Port of Melbourne in December, 2021. (AFP)

The drugs were hidden amongst almost 60 kilograms of powdered substances found inside military-style ammunition boxes concealed within a three tonne lathe.

It took police two weeks to safely remove the drugs from the lathe and analyse it due to the deadly risk fentanyl poses.

AFP acting Commander Anthony Hall said officers had to wear protective bio hazard suits to protect against any skin contact with the drug, which can cause harm, loss of consciousness and even death, while Ambulance Victoria were on standby.

“The lethality of fentanyl, even in small doses, required our forensic officers to wear bio-hazard suits and we had multiple ambulances on standby,” he said.

“Even in this highly controlled environment, there was a risk to our members’ safety.”

Fentanyl is a fast-acting opioid that is highly addictive and can be fatal from a dose of just 28 milligram – about the same weight as two grains of salt.

The drug is primarily used for medical purposes in Australia, but it is has been cut with heroin in overseas illicit drug markets, leading to fatal consequences, according to the AFP.

The drugs were hidden inside ammunition boxes. (AFP)
More than 11kg of pure powdered fentanyl and 30kg of methamphetamine were hidden inside in an industrial wooden lathe sent from Canada that arrived at the Port of Melbourne in December, 2021. (AFP)

Australian authorities have only ever detected illicit fentanyl importations in amounts less than 30 grams.

AFP acting Commander Anthony Hall said criminal syndicates illicit drugs such as heroin with fentanyl were creating a dangerous cocktail of substances.

“People who use illicit drugs can never be certain what they are ingesting and this seizure highlights the potentially lethal game of Russian roulette they play,” he said.

ABF Commander Maritime and Enforcement South James Watson said the “massive amount of fentanyl” being seized had “undoubtedly saved many, many lives”.

The AFP, ABF and the Department of Home Affairs are working together to track down those responsible for importing the fentanyl.

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