A Malaysian man has been arrested and is facing life in prison over what's been described as the largest heroin haul in Australia's history.
The Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force (ABF) said more than 450kg of the illicit drug, worth A$140m ($147m), was found hidden inside a container of ceramic tiles sent from Malaysia to a Melbourne business.
The shipment arrived at the Port of Melbourne on September 29.
ABF officers examined the container and found packages with distinctive red heroin branding, which later tested positive.
It's estimated the total of 1290 packages weighed 451kg, making it the largest onshore detection of heroin in Australia. Investigators on Friday searched businesses and residential properties across Melbourne.
A Malaysian national was charged over the haul and is now facing a life prison sentence.
AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Krissy Barrett said stopping the drugs from reaching communities had saved lives and reduced drug-associated crime, loss of productivity and healthcare costs.
She said there was an estimated one death in Australia for every 2kg of heroin consumed.
"It is important to note that in addition to the arrests made, the primary outcome of this operation is the preservation of an estimated 225 lives," she said.
"It is common for drug traffickers to add other substances to heroin to increase the volume and therefore make bigger profits.
"This involves manufacturing heroin with industrial, toxic chemicals that remain in the end product.
"Anything from paracetamol to poisons can be added, so you will never know what you are ingesting, or how your body will react. Unfortunately for many users, their bodies shut down and they die."
ABF Commander Chris Holzeimer said that despite pandemic-related border disruptions, the ABF continued to effectively disrupt attempts by criminal syndicates to bring narcotics into Australia.
"The ABF remains alert to all attempts to illegally import dangerous narcotics into the country. Syndicates might vary their concealment efforts, but our officers have the technical expertise to defeat them," Commander Holzeimer said.
"Today's outcome highlights that when we work together with our law enforcement partners, we can achieve our mission of protecting the Australian community.
"Our simple message is do not smuggle narcotics into Australia: we will detect and disrupt your attempt, and you will face severe legal consequences."