Drug smugglers took advantage of the current pandemic to conceal methamphetamine in shipments of hand sanitizer and face masks sent to Australia, according to officials.
Earlier this month, officers with the Australian Border Force found two kilograms of meth hidden in shipments of some of the most needed items during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We know criminals will go to any length to smuggle drugs into the country, so it’s no surprise they’re trying to use in-demand items such as masks and hand sanitizer to hide them in,” ABF Superintendent John Fleming said in a news release on Friday.
Australian authorities have conducted a series of high-profile drug busts in recent years, seizing billions of Australian dollars worth of illicit substances hidden in everything from Sriracha bottles to snow globes. Last year, they seized a record-breaking haul of methamphetamine worth $820 million, hidden inside stereo speakers shipped from Thailand.
Using face masks as a decoy
The more recent packages – found on May 6 and May 8 – were both shipped from Canada, according to the release. The drugs were found as officers inspected shipments at the Sydney Gateway Facility. When officers opened the boxes to check them over everything initially seemed to be in order. Inside, packages of face masks and two bottles of hand sanitizer were wrapped in bubble wrap, officials said in the release.
But upon further inspection, the bottles had a false bottoms, the release said. Inside the secret compartment was a crystal-like substance, which later tested positive for methamphetamine, officials said. In total, nearly two kilograms of the illicit substance were found.
“Criminals should know our efforts to secure our border have not stopped because of COVID-19,” said Fleming. “We are continuing to detect and stop illicit substances coming into Australia, no matter how they’re being concealed.”
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.