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SYDNEY (AP) — Australian police said Friday they made the country's largest seizure of methamphetamine — a 1.2 ton haul with a street value estimated at A$1.04 billion ($802 million).
Eight men, all from Australia, were charged as a result of the bust in the West Australian coastal town of Geraldton, after what police called a "complex, multi-agency investigation which traversed the country."
A press release issued by a combination of five law enforcement agencies, including the Australian Federal Police, said the seizure surpassed the previous record meth bust, a 903-kilogram haul in Melbourne early this year.
It is also the largest drug bust of any kind in Western Australia, the country's largest state, with almost 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) of coastline.
Police said the drugs had been transported on a private boat that docked in Geraldton in the early hours of Thursday morning and loaded into a van. Police intercepted the vehicle as it reversed from the dock.
Police arrested three men in the van, a further three on the boat, plus two more in a hotel in Perth, culminating a five-month operation that dismantled a complex drug trafficking network.
Fifty-nine bags containing some 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of methamphetamine each were seized from the vehicle. An additional bag containing approximately 20 kilograms of methamphetamine was found on the vessel.
The three men on the boat and the two seized at the Perth hotel were charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. The occupants of the van were charged with possessing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported. Both offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Federal police will allege in court these men intended to distribute the drugs along the east coast of Australia, said federal police Deputy Commissioner Operations Leanne Close.
Police did not say where the meth came from before reaching Geraldton.