Man jailed for 22 years after meth found in raw cow hides from Mexico

A Mexican national has been jailed for 22 years for his role in an elaborate attempt to import more than 600kgs of methamphetamine into Australia, concealed in rotting, raw cow hides.

In 2019, Australian authorities seized the 668kgs of crystal methamphetamine hidden inside raw animal skins, stopping more than 6,668,000 million individual street deals.

The seizure was the largest onshore seizure of methamphetamine originating from Mexico at the time.

A joint Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (ABF) operation began on 10 August 2019, after a shipping container, declared as containing “Salty Bovine Skin Cuero Verde Salado De Bovino”, arrived into Melbourne from Mexico.

The shipment was examined and 18 pallets of frozen, raw and untreated cow skins were located inside. Further inspection revealed 167 silver packages of a white crystalline substance hidden within the skins.

Forensic testing revealed the packages contained high-grade crystal methamphetamine. ​

Investigators responsible for deconstructing the hides described the smell of the rotting skin as “putrid.”

A Mexican national, now 45, was identified as an alleged member of an organised criminal syndicate and arrested on 28 August, 2019.

On Friday 14 October, 2022, after a 12-week trial, a Jury in the County Court of Victoria found the accused guilty of:

Importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drugs contrary to subsection 307.1(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)

The man was sentenced (5 May, 2023) to 22 years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of 15 years.

AFP Detective Superintendent Anthony Hall said the hard work of the AFP prevented a vast amount of harmful drugs from reaching Melbourne streets.

“Hiding drugs in untreated cow hides presented a significant biological hazard for AFP officers extracting the methamphetamine. It also demonstrates the unsafe, disgusting journey drugs can often take on their way to a consumer,” said Detective Superintendent Hall

“These organised crime syndicates inflict human suffering at all stages of their activities; this occurs at the supply end in Mexico, through to the harm suffered by users and their families here in Australia.”

 “Throughout this investigation, AFP officers skilfully disrupted the techniques employed by this criminal syndicate to run their illegal enterprises and collected overwhelming evidence of their attempts to coordinate the importation of harmful illicit drugs into our country and significantly contribute to the abhorrent harm being inflicted on the Australian community.”

“This result would not have been possible without working in lockstep with our state and Commonwealth law enforcement partners.”

ABF Superintendent Maritime Operations South Dan Peters said ABF officers are vigilant to the methods criminals use to try to illegally import drugs into the country.

“Our technical expertise and sophisticated technology means that we will find the drugs, regardless of the method of concealment these criminals use,” Supt Peters said.

“The ABF is committed to protecting the community from harmful drugs and working closely with our law enforcement partners to stop the tide of methamphetamine coming into Australia.

“This seizure shows that strong partnerships can prevent and disrupt organised crime syndicates who try to import illicit substances into the country.”