Australia finds $30 million in drugs in Afghan raisin shipment

Australian police and customs authorities have seized drugs worth more than $30 million hidden in boxes of raisins from Afghanistan, according to news reports.

The 476 pound haul, allegedly containing 213 pounds of heroin and 260 pounds of pseudoephedrine, was "stashed in the lining of 3,105 cartons of red raisins shipped via Iran," according to the Herald Sun.

Pseudoephedrine — in its retail form, a decongestant — is used as a key ingredient in the production of the illicit drug methamphetamine, apparently also referred to as "crystal meth," "ice," "shabu," "speed," "shit," or "glass."

According to the literature, it would appear that meth reached its zenith in terms of abuse in around 2005.

A survey of 500 county law enforcement agencies in 45 states, by the National Association of Counties, indicated that a majority regarded methamphetamine as their largest drug problem.

NBC News reported at the time that this cheap, lasting drug "pumps up the sex drive and makes users feel super-human. Methamphetamine is also extremely addictive and is plowing through the nation, from coast to coast and from city to countryside, leaving behind a trail of broken families and destroyed lives." 

The RAND Corporation, a research firm, reported that:

The economic cost of methamphetamine use in the United States reached $23.4 billion in 2005, including the burden of addiction, premature death, drug treatment and many other aspects of the drug.

Statistics show that Australia experienced its own spike in meth abuse about the same time.

The country's National Drug and Alcohol Research Center report revealed "a surge in the numbers of people using drugs like speed, base, ice and crystal meth," Australia's ABC reported at the time.

Tuesday's drug seizure will not surprise the folks at the Asia & Pacific Amphetamine-Type Stimulants Information Centre, who consider Australia's illicit methamphetamine markets to be "highly dynamic."

It's worth a trip to the website just to read about the novel, exotic and quite dastardly ways drug traffickers conceal their product in shipments around the region.   

On Tuesday, Australian police said Customs officers "identified inconsistencies" in the raisin shipment when examining the boxes with X-ray.

A 34-year-old Sydney man was charged with importing a commercial quantity of drugs and faces life in prison and a large fine if convicted, Agence France-Presse reported.

Australia's Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O'Connor, told the SMH that Australian customs and police had three weeks ago seized 660 pounds of cocaine from a yacht in Bundaberg, Queensland, and about 600 pounds of cocaine from a consignment of lawnmowers in Melbourne.

"These seizures show how dedicated these agencies are to stopping these drugs from entering Australia and keeping them off our streets," O'Connor reportedly said.