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Two arrested, 300kg in liquid MDMA hidden in wine bottles seized

Two men have been arrested in Melbourne after authorities seized more than 300 kilograms of liquid MDMA hidden in a consignment of French wine bottles.

Detectives from the Victoria Joint Organised Crime Taskforce arrested a Roxburgh Park man, 25, and a Cranbourne man, 21, yesterday morning (Saturday 8 October, 2022), in connection to the alleged attempted plot to import the illicit drugs.

Both men are expected to face the Melbourne Magistrates Court today (9 October, 2022) charged with the attempted possession of a commercial quantity of an unlawfully imported border controlled drug, contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

The potential maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

The investigation was launched late last month (September 2022) after Australian Border Force officers in Melbourne examined an air cargo consignment of bottles of wine labelled as 2016 Bordeaux and sent from France.

Officers identified the presence of a viscous liquid inside 270 bottles of wine, with subsequent forensic testing allegedly confirming the presence of liquid MDMA, worth tens of millions of dollars.

The drugs were removed and investigators from the JOCTF – which comprises Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, ABF and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission – tracked the consignment as it was delivered to a self-storage facility on 5 October.

The Cranbourne man was allegedly later identified checking the consignment.

Police executed search warrants at three properties in Roxburgh Park, Cranbourne and Hallam yesterday (8 October, 2022) and seized various items, including wine bottles.

The two men were subsequently arrested and charged.

AFP Detective Superintendent Jason McArthur said organised crime syndicates would use a variety of methods to try to smuggle large amounts of illicit drugs into Australia without detection because it was such a lucrative business.

“This seizure shows that Victoria – and Australia – is not an easy target,” D/ Supt McArthur said. 

 “The AFP is working closely with our partners to disrupt these criminal supply chains and intercept illicit drugs before they can cause harm in the community.

“We have also stopped those involved in the plot from accessing the millions of dollars in potential profits, which could have been used to fund future drug trafficking or other criminal ventures.

“The AFP will use its international network to identify those involved offshore, as well as the local members of this criminal syndicate.”

Victoria Police Detective Inspector Dan Ryan said the persistent work of the JOCTF led to this arrest and should serve as a serious warning to criminals who attempt to target our community.

“We’ve made no secret of the fact Victoria Police is determined to make our state a hostile place for organised crime, especially those engaged in the importation and manufacture of drugs.

“To be able to make these arrests and seizures highlights the continued local demand there is for a range of drugs. Ultimately, we really need to challenge attitudes around the use of illicit drugs in the community.

“This result highlights the commitment of all the agencies involved in pursuing offenders seeking to profit at the expense of our communities.

“We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who bring harm to our state are held to account, and that these criminal syndicates are strongly and deliberately targeted.”

ABF Superintendent Aviation Goods Tori Rosemond, said that the dedication and expert knowledge of border officers continues to result in major disruptions to the supply of drugs into our community.