$144 Million Of Cocaine Found Hidden In An Excavator
A 348-kilogram shipment of cocaine from South Africa arrived in Australia in June, hidden in parcels inside a huge excavator machine.
The 348 separate packages of cocaine were packed into the hydraulic lifting arm of an excavator, which was shipped out of South Africa into Port Kembla -- near Wollongong, NSW -- in June before being driven to Port Botany.
Border Forces became suspicious about the origin of the machinery, and x-rayed the shipment. They found a massive haul of cocaine hidden inside the digger, with x-rays showing how the arm was packed with bricks of the drug.
After the discovery of the cocaine, an investigation was launched by NSW Police, ACT Police, the National Anti-Gangs Squad and Australian Border Force.
The excavator was sent to its intended destination in a controlled delivery, which led to the arrests of two men from Karabar, NSW.
Both men were charged with importing a commercial quantity of border controlled drugs, and appeared in Queanbeyan Magistrates court on Monday.
High-level drug trafficking charges carry a potential maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The seizure is the biggest ever made by ACT Police, who have been monitoring the local criminal syndicate, linked to an undisclosed bikie gang, for several months.
Australian Border Force Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Sharon Huey, said that the cocaine shipment was an "incredibly sophisticated" concealment of the drug.
"Our officers have highly sophisticated technology at their disposal and this detection really shows no matter the lengths these criminals go to -- even if they weld drugs into machinery -- we have the skills and equipment to find these concealments," Huey said.
ACT Policing have stated that the seizure means roughly 1.92 million hits of cocaine were prevented from reaching the streets.