Police tip-off Australia to seize drugs in Cyprus BBQs

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A large cargo of ecstasy hidden in 200 Cypriot-made barbecues (aka foukou) was seized in Sidney after intelligence received from Cyprus police alerting it had left Limassol port in the summer.

According to the Australian police, two men have been arrested for allegedly trafficking 645 kilos (1,422 pounds) of ecstasy hidden inside 200 Cypriot barbecues with fake base plates, the culmination of a six-month investigation spanning three countries.

An Australian and a Canadian citizen, aged 30 and 33, were arrested by Australian authorities on charges of trafficking AUD 25 mln worth of ecstasy shipped to Australia in a container aboard a ship from Limassol.

The confiscation of the 645kg ecstasy is the largest quantity of this type of drug seized in 2019 in Australia, and also the largest quantity of drugs in a case involving Cyprus.

Australian officers had seized and swapped the MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, for an inert substance and delivered the barbecues to a warehouse in Sydney, where they stayed for more than three months in late October.

The aluminium barbecues were gradually shipped to another warehouse, also in Sydney, where the Australian suspect began preparing drugs for distribution.

Both suspects were arrested this week and are facing a life sentence if found guilty.

Cyprus Police boasted their contribution to the bust as they had tipped off Australian authorities of a potential large shipment of ecstasy in a container from Limassol and bound for Sydney. The investigation also involved the UK National Crime Agency.

“The drug bust and arrests were the results of the excellent cooperation between the three countries and the persistent actions of the countries involved under the coordination of the Australian authorities, which lasted six months,” the police said in a statement.

Cypriot police said that more arrests in Cyprus could take place and they have located the local company that sent the cargo.

Cypriot authorities believe more people are involved including Cypriots and British nationals.

Ecstasy is a central nervous system activating synthetic substance with the chemical name MDMA. Ecstasy can be attributed to hallucinogenic amphetamines.

The case is reminiscent of a Cyprus drug seizure in 2016 and the arrest of a 53-year-old man in the largest bust to date.

Smuggled cocaine with a street value of €7.3 mln was found in his bonded warehouse in Zakaki, Limassol.

The stash of 156 kg of cocaine was hidden in the fuel compartments of three power generators. They had been there for three months before they were discovered.

The cargo is believed to have arrived from Chile and was due for re-export.

The largest find of smuggled drugs in Cyprus triggered questions about how it got past customs checks at Limassol Port, and how much cocaine has been trafficked in the same way.