australian border force
A quantity of liquid methamphetamine disguised in various packaging is put on display by Australian Border Force officers at the Australian Federal Police headquarters in Sydney, February 15, 2016. Reuters/Jason Reed

Eight Australian citizens have been charged with allegedly importing 540 kilograms of methamphetamine worth $324 million. The men appeared in Sydney Central Court on Tuesday following the joint operation by Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

The AFP decided to begin a controlled operation after finding out suspiciously concealed bottles that were retrieved from a sea cargo consignment delivery. The sea cargo came from the United States before arriving in Sydney. There were 396 bottles labelled as protein powder that undergone forensic testing. Based on the initial testing, the substance was positive for methamphetamine and further testing would be conducted for exact weight and purity. Approximately, the meth weighed 540 kilograms.

On Monday, AFP began the controlled operation in Smithfield in western Sydney which involved the delivery of the consignment. The accused Australian men arrived in the area and allegedly accessed the consignment. Each man was accused violating section 307.5, by virtue of section 11.1, of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). They were charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of the unlawfully imported border controlled drug methamphetamine.

As part of the investigation, the AFP conducted a number of search warrants in the western part of Sydney. During the operation, the police arrested a 23-year-old woman who allegedly possessing approximately five kilograms of methamphetamine and smaller quantities of ecstasy and cocaine. AFP has retrieved drug paraphernalia, five firearms and ammunition and $35,000 cash. The woman was charged in an attempt to traffic a commercial quantity of a controlled drug violating section 302.2, by virtue of section 1, of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). She also violated section 307.5, by virtue of section 11.1, of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) for attempting to possess a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug. The maximum penalty for the offences is life imprisonment.

State Manager NSW AFP Commander Chris Sheehan said that the final phase of the operation unfolded quickly. He commended the officers who showed determination to bring to account the criminal syndicate that was allegedly responsible for the importation. He said that they would continue to work with their border protection partners and the law enforcement.

ABF Regional Commander NSW Tim Fitzgerald agreed that determination was shown by the AFP officers who handled the operation. He said that ABF and its partners would continue to target and disrupt the criminal syndicated pedaling the drug.