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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April, 2005, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Huge ecstasy haul in Australia
Australian Federal Police display ecstasy tablets seized from Melbourne's waterfront, April 15
The ecstasy tablets were hidden in a container of ceramic tiles
Australian police have seized more than five million ecstasy tablets hidden inside a shipping container that arrived in Melbourne from Europe.

Police sources say the find is one of the biggest hauls of the drug anywhere in the world.

It has an estimated street value of more than A$250m ($192m).

Four men have been arrested and are due to appear in a Melbourne court later on Friday, charged with importing a prohibited substance.

"The record haul reflects the growing challenge of amphetamine-type stimulants... and sends a clear message to drug traffickers that they will be caught," said Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison.

He said that if found guilty, the four accused men could be sentenced to up to life imprisonment.

Police spokesman Mike Phelan said the Australian authorities had received a tip-off about the ecstasy haul before the ship arrived in Melbourne.

They then monitored the shipping container until it was delivered to a nearby factory on Thursday.

An X-ray machine was used to locate the ecstasy tablets, which were hidden in cavities around boxes of ceramic tiles.

The ship is said to have come from Italy, but officials reportedly suspect the drugs could have come from either Belgium or the Netherlands.

"The AFP [Australian Federal Police] is now working with its counterparts in Italy and other parts of Europe to identify any overseas links with this latest seizure," Mr Phelan said.

In November police found three million tablets in a bakery oven in Sydney, which was also said to have come from Europe.


SEE ALSO:
Australian drug dealer gets tax back
06 Jun 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia to test medical cannabis
20 May 03 |  Asia-Pacific


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