SYDNEY — Australian authorities seized 3.9 metric tons (4.37 U.S. tons) of a methamphetamine ingredient smuggled from Thailand in tea bottles, police said Friday.

Australian Federal Police said two people were arrested after the seizure last month at a Sydney sea cargo examination facility. An Australian man and a female Australian-Chinese dual national, both 22, were refused bail Thursday after being charged with importing a drug precursor.

Australian Border Force officers, following up on information from Thai authorities, detected the shipment of more than 1,000 cartons each containing 24 bottles labelled as iced green and black tea. AFP said tests were positive for ephedrine in around one-third of the cartons.

The liquid ephedrine could have been used to make up to 3.5 billion Australian dollars (US$2.7 billion) worth of methamphetamine, police said.

They said it was the largest seizure of precursor chemicals at the Australian border, more than doubling the previous record of 1.4 metric tons only four months ago.

“We know our country has an insatiable demand for narcotics, and criminal networks will use every concealment method possible to get their harmful substances past our borders,” AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin said.

“This is not a problem we can combat alone,” and is why we rely on the strengths of our partnerships, he said.

AFP also reported a seizure of 350 kilograms (770 pounds) of methamphetamine concealed in drums of liquid plaster in a container that arrived in Sydney last month. A 31-year-old Australian man was charged with attempted drug possession.

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TREVOR MARSHALLSEA
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