Canadian drug smugglers were caught trying to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic by mailing methamphetamine to Australia hidden in care packages of coronavirus protection equipment.
Two shipments of face masks and large bottles of hand sanitizer were caught at an Australian mail sorting facility with the highly addictive street drug hidden inside, border guards said.
A package mailed from Canada was inspected in Sydney on May 6. Its label said it contained medicine and clothing, but inside agents found boxes of medical masks and bottles of hand sanitizer.
Underneath, however, in a false bottom in the packaging, was a vacuum-sealed bag stuffed with the distinctive crystalline substance. It tested positive for methamphetamine and weighed one kilogram, the Australian Border Force (ABF) said Thursday.
Two days later, a similar sized package was found at the same mail sorting facility. Again, the package had arrived from Canada.
It also contained boxes of face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer. This time, however, the meth was stuffed inside the bottles, replacing any gel that had once been there, the ABF said. The meth in the second package weighed 800 grams.
The bottles were of the Rexall and Equate brands, the first being the house-brand of the nationwide Rexall pharmacy chain headquartered in Mississauga, and the second being a Walmart brand in Canada.
The bottles look distinctly Canadian, with bilingual French and English labels.
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“We know criminals will go to any length to smuggle drugs into the country, so it’s no surprise they’re trying to use in-demand items such as masks and hand sanitizer to hide them in,” said ABF Supt. John Fleming, in charge of international mail and cargo clearance.
“Criminals should know our efforts to secure our border have not stopped because of COVID-19. Sea containers are still being examined and items being sent through the mail centre or air cargo are still being screened. We are continuing to detect and stop illicit substances coming into Australia, no matter how they’re being concealed.”
Because Australia is a large island, imported drugs must arrive by air or sea, and border authorities have long made robust detection efforts.
There have been no arrests in the latest case so far, but it continues a growing trend of Canadian drug smugglers working hard to penetrate Australian borders, where drug prices tend to be much higher than in North America.
A number of Canadians have been arrested for drug smuggling at Australian airports and ports in recent years.
Some were found with drugs hidden in suitcases, sent by organized crime rings using drug mules to take drugs hidden in false-bottomed suitcases. Others were sending loads by sea shipping container, hidden in cargo, such as an enormous 645 kilos of ecstasy found in a shipment of barbecues earlier this year.
It is possible the attempts to send drugs by mail reflect travel restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced opportunities to send drug mules posing as tourists.
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