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Singapore, HK arrests in huge Australian drug bust

Photo received on February 28, 2013 shows the Australian Federal Police's largest ever seizure of methamphetamine
An undated handout photo received on February 28, 2013 shows the Australian Federal Police's largest ever seizure of methamphetamine, found in a shipment of cleaning chemicals, with an estimated street value of around 446 million USD, secured in a vehicle

A Singaporean and a man from Hong Kong have been arrested in connection with an unprecedented methamphetamine seizure in Australia that was almost double the previous record, police said Thursday.

Police said the pair, aged 32 and 51, were arrested along with a 21-year-old Australian man in an operation Wednesday that netted more than half a tonne of the drug known as "ice" in raids on six properties across Sydney.

The 585-kilogram haul was estimated to have a street value of Aus$438 million (US$448 million).

"This is the largest single seizure of ice in Australian law enforcement history and almost doubles the previous record seizure of 300 kilograms in July 2012," police said in a statement.

The drugs were found in a shipment of cleaning chemicals from Shenjing in southern China following a tip-off to the Asian crime squad in September.

Australian Federal Police's largest ever seizure of methamphetamine found in a shipment of cleaning chemicals
An undated handout photo received on February 28, 2013 shows the Australian Federal Police's largest ever seizure of methamphetamine, found in a shipment of cleaning chemicals, with an estimated street value of around 446 million USD.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said the sophisticated syndicate went to "considerable lengths to escape detection" and the authorities had not ruled out further arrests, either in Australia or overseas.

"We've already been in contact with authorities in China and a range of further inquiries are under way," said Negus.

Andrew Scipione, police commissioner of New South Wales state, said it was "very fortunate that somebody took the time to make that phone call."

"This is the sort of drug that sends people mad," he said of the extremely addictive stimulant that can trigger erratic and violent behaviour.

The three arrested men, who will appear in a Sydney court Thursday, face life in prison and/or a Aus$1.275 million fine for commercial drug possession.

The previous record seizure of 306 kilograms came during a probe into a Hong Kong-linked international drugs syndicate that resulted in seven arrests -- four of whom were natives of the former British territory.

The drugs had been stashed in terracotta pots in a shipment from Thailand.

More recently, Australian police in November seized 235 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden inside a consignment of heavy machinery from China.

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