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A MONSTER $60 million heroin shipment, said to be linked to a Chinese crime syndicate, has been seized after being smuggled through Melbourne.
Five men were arrested after police uncovered the 115kg of heroin.
Federal agents in the past four weeks have nabbed the world's biggest ecstasy shipment and Australia's largest haul of heroin in two years.
Both shipments arrived on Melbourne's docks. It is believed the Australian Federal Police learned of the latest smuggling plot after Dutch police netted a big ecstasy shipment destined for Australia.
The heroin, hidden in the roofs of shipping containers marked as carrying plastic chairs, was shipped from the southern Chinese port of Shenzen to Melbourne in February.
Federal agents tracked the containers as they were moved the same month by truck to a storage warehouse in Salisbury North, in Adelaide.
There, officers removed the haul and empty containers went by rail, under surveillance, to a warehouse in the south-west Sydney suburb of Minto.
Four men were arrested at the Minto warehouse on Thursday night.
"It's reasonable to assume that would be the distribution point," AFP spokesman Mike Phelan said yesterday.
The haul was of 399 blocks, each containing about 260g of the drug.
AFP agents later uncovered a further 10kg of heroin in related searches.
A fifth man, 29 -- the drug syndicate's alleged mastermind -- was arrested in Hong Kong and is expected to be extradited to Australia.
It is alleged he rented the warehouses in Adelaide and Sydney.
"It will also be further alleged that this person was the organiser of the syndicate, and whilst here he set up a number of false entities under the guise of operating a business whilst on a student visa," Mr Phelan said.
The drug bust was the culmination of a 12-month operation involving authorities in Belgium, the Netherlands, China and Hong Kong.
"We have been monitoring the activities of this group for some time now and we are confident that this well-organised group is now out of business," Mr Phelan said.
"This is the largest seizure for nearly two years of heroin in Australia."
Customs regional director Virginia Lynch said: "The individuals who modified this shipping container went to a lot of time and trouble to try and avoid being detected, but clearly not enough.
"There were 80 kilos of heroin seized last year, and this is over 115kg just in the one seizure."
Two men, 21 and 26, appeared in Sydney's Central Court yesterday, charged with possessing a trafficable amount of heroin, and were remanded in custody to appear again on July 27.
Another man, 46, was remanded to appear in the same court on May 18 on a charge of dealing in money for criminal purposes.
A 41-year-old man is to appear in court next month.
The arrests follow the interception of the world's biggest haul of ecstasy in Melbourne late last month.
In that joint AFP-Customs operation, authorities tracked five million ecstasy pills, hidden in a consignment of ceramic tiles and shipped from Italy to Melbourne.
After replacing the pills with fake tablets, agents followed the pallets of tiles to a Thomastown warehouse, and arrested four men.
Other recent drug operations have included $18 million of ecstasy pills, bound for Melbourne, netted in Sydney.