Police Follow Hot Tip To Find Meth Haul Hidden In Sriracha Bottles
These bottles of Sriracha chilli sauce contained an unexpected kick -- 400 kilograms of meth.
Four men are in custody after the Australian Border Force rumbled a sneaky operation -- a shipment of ice with an estimated street value of more than $300 million -- hidden in boxes of the popular hot sauce.
An air cargo consignment from the United States that arrived in Sydney earlier this month, drew the attention of ABF officers.
After "deconstruction" by authorities, the shipment -- nearly 800 bottles of the hot chilli sauce -- was found to contain methylamphetamine, (also known as ice).
Further examination found the cargo contained some 400 kilograms of the drug -- which police say represents four million hits of ice, and a street value of $300 million.
Sriracha is a sauce originating in Thailand, made from a paste of chilli peppers, vinegar, garlic and salt.
The seized bottles also had a bright green lid and a rooster emblem - which appear to be similar to arguably the most popular brand of sriracha which is made by Huy Fong Foods in the USA.
As part of NSW Police's Strike Force Diffey, established in 2018 to target money laundering and importation of drugs in Sydney, authorities seized the package and conducted a controlled delivery.
Following the shipment being delivered, police arrested several men allegedly involved in the scheme.
The first was a 36-year-old man at Plumpton, on October 20, who allegedly accessed the shipment at Wetherill Park and the took it to a storage facility at Minchinbury in Sydney's west.
The next day, police arrested two more men from Victoria -- aged 30 and 34 -- at a Sydney CBD hotel.
It is alleged they accessed the shipment at Minchinbury then took it to the hotel. Police alleged officers then searched a car in the hotel's carpark, seizing eight boxes of Sriracha, while a search of a hotel suite found another 26 boxes of the sauce.
"The men were all charged with attempt to possess a commercial quantity unlawful import: border-controlled drug and large commercial drug supply," NSW Police said on Thursday.
The Plumpton man was refused bail and appeared at Mt Druitt Local Court on October 21. He will reappear at court on December 16.
The Victorian men were both refused bail and appeared at Downing Centre Local Court on October 22. They are scheduled to re-appear on December 17.
Further inquiries led police to search a property at Edensor Park, in Sydney's west, on Thursday morning. Another man, 45, was arrested and taken to Fairfield police station, where officers expect to charge him.
“This has been a complex investigation and we know the methylamphetamine in this import was headed for a clandestine lab in the Sydney Metropolitan area for the extraction process to occur,” State Crime Commander, Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said.
“This detection should serve as a warning to criminal groups that no matter how clever you think you are being in the way that you attempt to conceal and move your drugs, our officers have the skills, technology and the resources to find them and track down the people who are attempting to bring them in," Acting ABF Regional Commander for NSW, Matt O’Connor added.