An Australian man who allegedly brought more than $1.7 million of cocaine hidden in a suitcase through Melbourne Airport could face life in jail.

The 34-year-old arrived on a flight from Italy on Thursday night when Border Force officials allegedly uncovered 5kg of cocaine hidden under a false bottom of a case.

Border Force alleges officers found a piece of plywood "inconsistent with the construction" of the man's suitcase, before the bag was X-rayed.

A white substance, believed to be cocaine, was found behind the plywood partition.

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The cocaine is thought to have a street value of about NZ$1.7 million.

The man is expected to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Friday on charges of importing and possessing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

- AAP