Police intercepted a record amount of meth in Australia, estimating its worth at $440 million, the BBC reports.
Authorities said in a press conference video distributed by ITN that the 1,290 pounds of the drug were hidden in a shipment of cleaning chemicals from the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. Officials believed it to be the most ever recovered Down Under.
The massive seizure and the arrests of three suspects -- from Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong -- would not have happened if not for a tip by the public, New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters. Suspicious activity at a storage facility near Sydney sparked the four-month investigation, the commissioner said.
New Zealand news outlet Stuff.co.nz reported on the suspects' court appearance on Thursday, in which all were formally denied bail. The organization identified the trio as Kiwi-born Australian national Tony Ming Ly, 21, the alleged driver; Cheung Tuen, 51, of Hong Kong; and Boon Cheng Leow, 32, of Singapore.
According to CNN, the final stage of the arrest involved police secretly confiscating the methamphetamine (often made with ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as main ingredients) and replacing it with an "inert substance." When the traffickers came on Wednesday to take away their haul, police converged.
Meth has become a serious global problem. The Associated Press, citing the most recent data provided by the United Nations, reported that nearly 10,200 meth labs globally were shut down in 2009. "Nearly half of all people seeking drug treatment in East and Southeast Asia in 2009 were methamphetamine users," the AP writes.
Australia seems to be a popular destination for smugglers. In June, Australian authorities found 1,230 pounds of crystal meth and heroin hidden in terracotta pots.