SYDNEY (AP) — Six men were charged in Sydney with drug smuggling and more than 480 kilograms (1,060 pounds) of cocaine and methamphetamine have been seized in Columbia and Australia in a joint Australian-Colombian police operation, officials said Thursday.
Australian police and customs officers found 230 kilograms (507 pounds) of liquid methamphetamine worth 156 million Australian dollars ($122 million) hidden in 20,000 bottles of lemonade at a Sydney warehouse in December, a joint statement by four Australian law enforcement agencies said. The bottles had entered Sydney in shipping containers.
Colombian police found 253 kilograms (558 pounds) of cocaine hidden in boxes of flowers bound for Europe and Australia in January and February involving the same syndicate, the statement said.
The operation began in May last year following a tip off from Colombian police that a suspected drug dealer had arrived in Australia. The Spanish-Colombian dual citizen quickly led police to Australian members of the syndicate.
In January, law enforcement authorities in the Colombian capital of Bogota seized 243 kilograms (536 pounds) of cocaine related to the same syndicate destined for Europe, the statement said. The cocaine was concealed in cardboard boxes of fresh flowers that were to be air freighted.
Last week, Colombian police examined 2 tons of fresh flowers bound for Sydney and found 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cocaine worth AU$3.6 million, the statement said.
Five Australian men as well as the Spanish-Colombian national appeared in a Sydney court Wednesday on drug trafficking charges. They were denied bail and will appear in court next in May.
They face life imprisonment if convicted.