Australian police have arrested five Australian nationals for allegedly smuggling drugs from China to Australia via Vietnam as part of an operation involving Vietnamese police.
David Francesco Martelli, Guido Pirri, Shane Trout, Mark Cooper and Nguyen Minh Hien, an Australian of Vietnamese origin, were nabbed in South Australia on September 13.
According to Vietnamese police, Martelli, 52, and Hien, 49, entered Vietnam early this year. The duo connived with other suspects to form a drug smuggling network from China to Vietnam and later to Australia.
In July, the Vietnamese Narcotics Police Department found that the suspects were waiting for two parcels containing benzylpiperazine (BZP) a recreational drug with euphoric, stimulant properties to be sent from China to Vietnam via post and by train.
The suspects received the parcels, one of which was labeled as car polish powder, in Ho Chi Minh City, and later packed them in a container.
They hired a Vietnamese private export company to perform customs formalities to send the container, labeled as a shipment of porcelain products, to Adelaide, Australia.
After the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were informed of the suspicious cargo shipment by Vietnamese police, they asked Vietnamese police not to make any moves against the criminals and let the shipment be sent to Australia.
Australian police believed by doing so that they could arrest more members of the drug smuggling ring and freeze their properties in Australia.
The police stopped the shipment at a port in Freemantle, a city in Western Australia, taking the drugs out and replacing them with other substances.
According to an AFP release, the shipment contained more than one kilogram of a white powder believed to be a variation of ecstasy, 880 grams of methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and almost 10 kilograms of a liquid suspected to be BZP.
The "new" shipment was shipped and made its way to Adelaide as scheduled.
On September 12, the shipment arrived at the port in Adelaide and was received by Hien and Pirri.
Hien tasted the drugs and suspected they were replaced by customs officers so he informed Martelli of the news, police said.
However, Martelli rejected Hien's accusations and the group decided to meet at a house in South Australia.
The police arrested the five men at the house, and seized some equipment used to produce MPDV and BZP. They have laid charges of "importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug" against the five.
The AFP said the assistance provided by the Vietnamese police was invaluable in the resulting seizure and arrests.
"Results such as this ultimately break down large and sophisticated crime groups and prevent illicit drugs hitting the streets and harming more people," said South Australia Police Assistant Commissioner Grant Stevens.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese police are still searching for other members of the drug smuggling ring.
Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin are punishable by death.