Australia in ‘record ephedrine haul’

Australian officials have made what they say is one of the largest seizures of the drug ephedrine, hidden in a shipment sent from India to Melbourne.

A joint agency task force seized 274kg (604lbs) of ephedrine, which is used to make crystal methamphetamine, the Australian Federal Police said.

The drug was hidden in bags labelled as “basmati rice”, officials added.

At least three men, including two foreign nationals, have been charged in connection with the case.

The federal police said in a statement that a task force with agriculture and customs and border protection authorities has resulted in “one of the largest single seizures of ephedrine in Australian history”.

They added that the amount seized “could be used to manufacture up to 200kg of crystal methamphetamine”.

“Dependent on purity this would have an estimated potential street value of up to A$200m [$187m, £117m],” the federal police said

The operation started in July, following the inspection of an estimated 3,600 bags labelled as “basmati rice”, which arrived at the port in Melbourne from India.

Arrest warrants were eventually executed in Melbourne and Sydney.

Those charged in connection with the case include two Canadians and an Australian, police say.

An Indian national was also reportedly detained by local police in India.

Officials quoted in local media say this was the third-largest seizure of its kind in Australia.