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Four men have been arrested in Melbourne over what police believe is one of the world's biggest ecstasy hauls.
An Australian Federal Police (AFP) spokeswoman said officers discovered more than one tonne of MDMA (ecstasy) tablets with an estimated street value of more than $250 million in a shipment at Melbourne's waterfront.
The spokeswoman said it was the largest ever ecstasy haul in Australia, and possibly the world, and was detected following a joint operation between the AFP and the Australian Customs Service, with assistance from the Australian Crime Commission.
A joint AFP/customs statement said intelligence developed by the two agencies led customs to the drugs in a shipping container carrying ceramic tiles imported from Italy earlier this week.
The tablets were concealed in cavities around some of the boxes of tiles and were first identified using x-ray equipment, the statement said.
More than five million tablets were found in a subsequent search of the container.
AFP officers monitored the container until it was delivered to a factory in Thomastown, in Melbourne's north, on Thursday afternoon.
Two men later tried to recover the tablets.
A Black Rock man, 36, and a 52-year-old man from Clarkefield, near Sunbury, were arrested at the scene and were charged with aiding and abetting a commercial quantity of MDMA and attempting to possess a prohibited import.
AFP officers then executed 12 search warrants at homes and businesses across Melbourne on Thursday night, arresting two others - a Gowanbrae man, 28, and a Sydenham man, 31.
The two were charged with aiding and abetting a prohibited import, a commercial quantity of MDMA.
All four were due to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court at 2pm on Friday (AEST).
Customs Service Victorian manager Jaclyne Fisher said the importation was well organised.
"Clearly, this was a major shipment involving a well organised syndicate that was aiming to put a massive amount of tablets onto Australian streets," she said.
Ms Fisher said the seizure demonstrated the value of the service's container examination facility in Port Melbourne, where the container was x-rayed.
"This technology, coupled with our highly trained staff and close cooperation with other law enforcement agencies is certainly helping to put a major dent in attempts to traffic drugs into this country," she said.
AFP national border and international network manager Mike Phelan said further arrests could follow overseas following the seizure.
"The AFP is now working with its counterparts in Italy and other parts of Europe to identify any overseas links with this latest seizure," he said.
Ecstasy importation had increased dramatically in Australia in the past two years, Mr Phelan said.
"A consignment this size shows the demand for this drug on our streets despite the potentially lethal affects it can have on our young people," he said.
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