Federal police have uncovered an Adelaide-based crime syndicate which allegedly used stuffed toys, cushions and nappies to import $6.6 million worth of drugs.
Three Chinese nationals – Bo Wan, 28, Fu Chen 36, and Nan Liu, 20 – were each charged with one count of importing a marketable quality of border-controlled drug and one count of importing a controlled precursor, used to make illicit drugs.
Those charged are alleged to have imported crystal methamphetamine and pseudoephedrine hidden in stuffed toys, nappies and cushions from Hong Kong.
Advertisement: Story continues below Chen and Liu, who live next door to each other at Renown Park in Adelaide’s north, appeared at the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Friday.
Chen, alleged to have directed the crime syndicate, was in custody with his application for bail refused.
Liu, a student who is alleged to have picked up the packages for Chen, appeared later, seemingly confused and without a lawyer.
The judge ordered a Mandarin interpreter and legal aid for the young woman.
The three co-accused were arrested in raids on April 8 and 11 with police seizing $14,150 in cash, SIM cards, fake ID and stuffed toys with their contents ripped out.
They also seized scales, deal bags and containers with traces of methamphetamines.
Regional director of customs and border protection Helen Bulis said customs officers were tipped off to the syndicate after finding 126 grams of crystal methamphetamine in a stuffed toy dog in air cargo on March 21.
“We electronically screen 100 per cent of air cargo … once we do that we then put (cargo in) a high-risk group,” Ms Bulis told journalists on Friday.
“Technology used (on high risk cargo) was X-rays that showed an inconsistency … one didn’t really look like a teddy bear as it might have had something inside.”
Over the next two weeks, three shipments were detected with a total of about 700 grams of crystal methamphetamine and 7.2 kilograms of pseudoephedrine.
Australian Federal Police Detective Superintendent Michael Duthie alleges the syndicate made international money transfers to China to pay for the drugs using false names and addresses.
“They (drugs) were going to different addresses and in some instances false identities were being involved to provide top cover to those people,” he said.
Chen’s application for bail will be heard at a committal court on May 20, with Wan and Liu’s bail continued.
All three are to appear at the Adelaide Magistrates Court on July 26.