FOUR men have been arrested and drugs with a street value of $72 million seized in a series of raids by Australian Federal Police and Customs in Sydney's south-west.
The haul, of about 400kg of ephedrine, was described by customs officials as one of the biggest involving the drug, which is used to make speed.
The compressed powder, which had been used to make ceramic statues and found in a shipping container, was discovered by customs in a shipment that arrived from Vietnam on August 17.
Customs officers found that 800 of the 864 statues were made from the powder in a novel method of concealment.
Australian Federal Police arrested four men yesterday during raids at a Padstow warehouse, where the drugs were being stored, and two houses in south-western Sydney.
The four men, aged between 29 and 36, were charged with conspiracy to import a prohibited import and supply of a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.
Kowk Do, Kanh Lam, Minh Phan and Paul Nguyen faced Parramatta Bail Court today and were refused bail to appear in Central Local Court on Monday.
Police allege the ephedrine was intended to make methamphetamine, commonly known as speed, and had the potential to make 1,440,000 tablets with a potential street value of up to $72 million.
During a news conference before the court appearance, Australian Customs Service regional director David Collins said it was thought the haul was one of the largest with this type of drug.
"We think it's close to the biggest, if not the biggest," he told reporters.
He said it was an unusual way to conceal drugs and criminals were less likely to use this method in the future.
"It certainly is a very unusual form of concealment to actually be the product," Mr Collins told reporters.
"Most concealments are in another product but this is actually part of the product."
More arrests were expected.