The cocaine was concealed inside the hydraulic arm of a second-hand excavator, according to Ray Johnson, chief police officer for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Police.
“This is the largest drug seizure ever conducted and coordinated by ACT Policing,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference on Monday.
The excavator contained the Canadian equivalent of $132 million worth of cocaine.
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Border officials spotted the drugs using a routine X-ray check at a port in Sydney in June, according to Sharon Huey, acting deputy commissioner operations for the Australian Border Force. The excavator was brought into the country by boat.
“This is an incredibly sophisticated concealment,” Huey said at the press conference. She added that border police are fully equipped to intercept even the most sophisticated smuggling operations.
Johnson says the drugs are linked to a crime syndicate operating in the state of New South Wales.
Police removed the drugs and allowed the excavator to be transported for a “controlled delivery” in the city of Bungendore last week.
Adam Hunter, 33, and Timothy Engstrom, 34, were arrested in connection with the case on Sunday. Both men have been charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and attempting to possess a border-controlled drug.
Johnson says the charge includes a maximum punishment of life in prison.
“It’s clear to us that this group thought bringing drugs into our district in this type of machinery would avoid police interest,” Johnson said.
“How wrong they were.”