A 26-year-old Malaysian national was due to appear in the Perth Magistrates Court today (Friday 21 August) after authorities allegedly linked him to the seizure of 52.5 grams of methamphetamine concealed in handbags sent from Malaysia.

The illicit drugs were found during an examination by the Australian Border Force (ABF) at an air cargo depot in Perth on 13 August 2020. An X-ray of the parcel revealed anomalies and an ABF drug detector dog subsequently gave a positive reaction.

The consignment included four handbags containing small sachets labelled ‘silica desiccant’, a product normally used to absorb moisture and prevent mould. It will be alleged further examination of the sachets revealed a white crystal substance, which returned a presumptive positive test for methamphetamine.

The matter was referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), who replaced the methamphetamine with an inert substance and conducted a controlled delivery of the handbags.

The AFP arrested the man – a 26-year-old Malaysian national who is in Australia unlawfully – shortly after his receipt of the delivery and executed a search warrant on his premises in the Perth suburb of Morley. During the search, officers found several other similar handbags and other items that were seized for evidentiary purposes.

The man was charged with two counts of importing a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug contrary to section 307.2 (1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). He was later refused bail and faces a potential maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment if convicted.

AFP Detective Acting Inspector Peter Brindal said that, in a week that has seen the largest ever cocaine seizure by Australian authorities, this investigation was an important reminder that no amount of illicit drugs is acceptable in our community.

“Police know better than most the heartache and unrepairable damage that illicit drugs cause families and communities across Australia,” Detective Acting Inspector Brindal said.

“When one hit is enough to set someone down a dark and self-destructive road, we cannot underestimate the positive impact of this operation.

“It is another example of AFP and ABF officers standing shoulder to shoulder in the fight to keep illicit drugs off our streets and out of our homes in WA and across the country.”

ABF Regional Commander for WA, James Copeman, said screening of air cargo consignments had been significantly ramped up this year in response to increased volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Criminals who think it’ll now be easier to smuggle illicit drugs across the border in air cargo parcels are kidding themselves,” Commander Copeman said.

“With the vastly reduced number of international air travellers coming through our airports we have surged officers into the air cargo and international mail streams to accommodate higher volumes of online purchases in 2020.

“ABF officers are well aware of the many creative ways criminals will use to attempt to smuggle illicit and prohibited goods into Australia.

“This outcome again demonstrates the highly effective collaborative manner in which the ABF and AFP work together to protect the community from harmful substances like meth.”