The Australian Federal Police have announced "the largest seizure of liquid methamphetamine" in Australia's history, a reported $1.26 billion haul.
Announcing the seizure in Sydney on Monday, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the seizure of 720 litres of liquid methamphetamine, or ice, was enough for 3.6 million hits.
Keenan called it "the largest seizure of liquid methamphetamine in Australia's history" and "one of THE largest drug seizures in our country."
A joint taskforce, titled Taskforce Blaze, was formed by Australian Federal Police and Chinese narcotic investigators was formed in November 2015. In December, the Australian Border Force inspected a shipping container originating from Hong Kong which was found to contain gel bra inserts, which contained 190 litres of liquid methamphetamine. Related investigations reportedly found an additional 530 litres hidden inside art supples in five storage units in the Sydney suburbs of Miranda, Hurstville, Padstow and Kingsgrove.
Four Hong Kong nationals -- men aged 33, 37 and 59, and a woman aged 52 -- have been arrested and charged in relation to the seizures. .
"The 720 litres of liquid methamphetamine seized could produce up to 504kg of high quality crystal methamphetamine or ice," Keenan said.
The drugs were reportedly hidden inside a range of innocuous-looking consumer goods, including bras and childrens' painting sets.
However, doubt has been cast over the astronomical figure cited by the AFP. A journalist at the press conference asked how the valuation was met, with the answer that:
"Typically what the AFP relies upon is the [Australian Crime Commission's] illicit drug data report... The particular value of this shipment has been calculated on the basis of its value sold at a street level, which at that level, a kilogram of crystal methamphetamine could be broken to 00.1 gram deals or points and sold at that value. Calculating it from there brings us to the $1.26 billion."
The valuation of 504 kg of ice at $1.26 billion would put a kilogram of ice at $2.5 million. The Australian Crime Commission's 2015 report states that " the average street price per gram of methylamphetamine... in Australia it is USD$500. Wholesale prices in Australia have been recorded as ranging from A$90,000 to A$325,000 per kilogram."
At today's prices, USD $500 per gram would come to around AUD$700,000 per kilogram -- far below the $2.5million per kilogram that the AFP suggests.
UPDATE: The AFP have told HuffPost Australia how they came to the figure of $1.26 billion.
In a statement explaining their calculations, the AFP said:
* 720 litres of liquid methamphetamine can be converted to 504kg of ice
* 10,000 street hits per kg (Each street hit 0.1g)
* Each street hit worth up to250 as outlined in Illicit Drugs Data Report
* Therefore: 10,000 hits x 504kg = 5,040,000 hits x250 per hit =1.26 billion
While the mathematics check out, the report in question (from 2013-14) states that 0.1 grams of ice can sell for anywhere between $50 and $250. The AFP have used the maximum value possible to reach the $1.26 billion figure, while using the minimum figure could place the value of the seizure at one-fifth of that; $250 million.
A Sydney Morning Herald report from 2015 claimed ice could be purchased for as little as $40 a point.