MELBOURNE, Sept 16, 2011 (AFP) - Australian police said Friday they had made one of their largest cocaine seizures, intercepting a Aus$200 million (US$206 million) shipment from Brazil hidden among a cargo of lawnmowers.
AFP - Australian Federal Police officers handle cocaine at their headquarters in Melbourne on September 16, 2011.
Three people were charged with importing commercial quantities of a controlled drug after raids in Melbourne Thursday evening -- an Australian, 20, and two Chinese nationals, aged 33 and 35.
The Australian Federal Police said the 271 kilograms (596 pounds) found was the fifth largest seizure of cocaine ever in Australia and the biggest haul in Victorian state history.
"Australian law enforcement is more united and better equipped than ever in the fight against organised crime," said federal police spokesman Ramzi Jabbour.
"This seizure and subsequent arrests are another example of our commitment to combating these criminal groups that jeopardise the health and safety of the Australian community."
Police inspected the shipping container holding eight ride-on lawnmowers packed in individual crates at Melbourne on August 19 and found the drugs hidden in wooden boxes inside the crates.
Police then carried out a controlled delivery of 60 kilograms of cocaine to an address in central Melbourne which led to the arrest of one man and the interception of Aus$229,100 in cash, with two other men subsequently caught.
The maximum penalty for importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drugs is life imprisonment.