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Drug gang washed up after Vic powder bust

AAP logoAAP 8/01/2017 Luke Costin

Police believe a massive drug bust in Melbourne has dismantled a criminal syndicate from the top down and may have prevented $200 million of ice hitting the streets of Australia's east coast.

Authorities allege 300kg of pseudoephedrine - the biggest haul in years - was placed inside 167 washing powder boxes, mixed with 700 kilograms of a white powder.

The tainted boxes were hidden in a shipment of more than 900 boxes of washing powder that was shipped to Melbourne from Vietnam last month.

"This was an elaborate process to try and mask (the pseudoephedrine)," Border Force Regional Commander James Watson told reporters on Monday.

"It was deeply hidden within that shipping container."

Four Australian men and one Vietnamese national were arrested on Saturday and charged with drug importation offences after the shipment was traced to a factory in Tottenham, Australian Federal Police say.

The five accused men, aged between 27 and 48, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Sunday and were remanded in custody.

Authorities say the precursor could have helped flood the streets of Australia's east coast with $200 million of methamphetamine.

The seizure follows the discovery in October of a clandestine laboratory in Werribee South, which police say had produced more than 500kg of methamphetamine.

At that time, two Australians and one Vietnamese national were arrested, charged and they remain in custody.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission alleges a complex cartel that had been in operation for a "significant amount of time" was behind the lab and the importation.

"We'll be alleging the syndicate has been dismantled from the top down in Australia," ACIC's Victorian manager, Jason Halls, said.

"There are connections to a number of international locations."

Victoria Police said it is the largest seizure of pseudoephedrine for some years.

"It has certainly been a great disruption (to the illegal drugs trade)," acting Commander Paul Naylor said.

The five men who were arrested on Saturday are due to reappear in the same court on Friday.

The three men arrested in Werribee South are expected to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on February 17.

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