POLICE have intercepted a $55 million international heroin import to be distributed across NSW and WA.
A Hunter man has been arrested and charged in relation to the 74.5 kilogram haul intercepted between China and Australia.
The Australian Federal Police investigation began last month after the National Narcotics Control Commission and the Guangdong Narcotics Control Board in China raised the alarm.
Multiple suspicious parcels were intercepted and when investigators examined the consignments, they allegedly found 254 blocks of 'half-catti' Double UOGlobe-branded heroin vacuum sealed in foil bags.
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The illicit drugs were removed and replaced with an inert substance, before four consignments were forwarded to their intended destinations - three in Newcastle and one to Perth in Western Australia.
On April 22, AFP investigators, with assistance from Newcastle police, arrested a 23-year-old man after he allegedly collected one package sent to a residence in Lambton.
Police executed search warrants at several addresses across the region - in Jesmond, Belmont, Lambton and The Hill - and allegedly seized a small amount of drugs, cash, drug paraphernalia and a mobile phone, which will be subject to further forensic examination.
The 23-year-old man, who lives in The Hill, was arrested and charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs. The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.
He appeared in Newcastle Local Court on April 23 and was remanded in custody to appear in court again in June.
On May 4, AFP and Australian Border Force investigators arrested a 17-year-old girl after she allegedly took possession of a package that was supposed to contain 22 kilograms of heroin.
Police searched her family's home and allegedly found the package opened and in the teenager's bedroom wardrobe.
The 17-year-old was refused police bail and faced Perth Children's Court charged with one count of attempting to import a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, namely heroin. The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.
Police are continuing to investigate links between the shipments and have not ruled out further arrests.
"This collaborative effort has prevented approximately 74.5 kilograms of heroin from reaching Australian communities. This amount of drugs could have been sold to as many as 745,000 people, netting the criminals behind it at least $55,000,000 and causing widespread harm," AFP Commander Asia Peter Sykora said.
Commander Sykora said figures released by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre last month found 474 Australians died in 2019 from heroin use.
"There is no safe level of heroin to ingest," Commander Sykora said.
"It is common for drug distributors to add a variety of substances to heroin and other illicit drugs to increase the volume and, therefore make bigger profits. Anything from paracetamol to poisons can be added to the final product, you will never know what you are ingesting.
"Organised crime groups will try to distribute these substances in any area of Australia if they think they can make a profit - they don't care about the harm they cause.
"The AFP is targeting these syndicates, and we are working with our law enforcement partners in Australia and offshore to outsmart them."
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