Two Polish nationals have been arrested in Australia on suspicion of attempting to smuggle 1.2 tonnes of crystal MDMA into the country from the Czech Republic.
With an estimated street value of over €100 million, the drugs had the potential to produce as many as 4.1 million ecstasy tablets – making the shipment the biggest discovery of drugs in Australia this year, and the fourth-largest ecstasy seizure in the country of all time.
According to Australian officials, a large international organised crime syndicate is suspected of being behind the attempt to sneak the massive haul past customs.
Australian Border Force and Australian Federal Police officers seized the drugs at a storage facility in Sydney, after they had been smuggled into the country in a shipment of aluminium, hidden behind a number of lead casing. The lead was used to stop airport x-ray machines from locating the drugs.
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the Australian Federal Police Justine Saunders said: “This has come from [the Czech Republic] and has found its way to Australia, so this is bigger than the two individuals that we have arrested. So, yes the investigation will continue and, yes, we do anticipate further arrests.”
Justice Minister Michael Keenan commented: “The size of this seizure and the amount of harm it would have caused cannot be understated.”
The Polish men arrested after the discovery of the drugs, Dariusz Zbroszczyk and Piotr Latusek, appeared in court over the weekend charged with drug importation offences. No application for bail was made.
Since experiencing something of a lull in popularity since their 1990s heyday, ecstasy and MDMA have enjoyed a jump in use over the past year or so, both in Europe and elsewhere. The 2016 European Drug Report revealed that Europeans aged between 15 and 34 consumed 2.1 million ecstasy tablets over the course of the last 12 months, representing a 300,000 increase on the previous year.
Researchers in Australia have also found that MDMA and ecstasy are making a comeback among young people, noting that users appear to be seeking out higher strength ecstasy crystals, which they are increasingly using a to go on binges that can last up to 48 hours.
Numerous observers put the rising popularity of MDMA and ecstasy down to their increased availability on dark web market places, where buyers can use auction site-style feedback systems to flag the quality of their purchases.
This has forced producers to up the quality and strength of their products, and to spend more time coming up with new logo ideas for their pills to attract young drug users. A sad consequence of this has been a spate of deaths resulting from mostly young people taking super-strength ecstasy tablets, prompting drug campaigners to warn about the drugs’ renaissance.