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Phone tip-off led to nation's biggest drug haul

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Ice bust worth record $438 million

RAW VISION: Footage released by Australian Federal Police shows NSW police seizing a record 585 kilograms of the drug ice in Sydney.

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A SINGLE phone call to police from an anonymous source triggered a five-month investigation that netted Australia's largest recorded ice seizure - more than half a tonne, worth an estimated $438 million.

The NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, told a news conference on Thursday that the joint organised crime group would not have arrested the Asian drug syndicate's three men without that simple tip-off.

''That one phone call was the one thread that allowed us to pull and unravel a syndicate that will be stopped forever,'' he said.

The ice was disguised as cleaning chemicals shipped in containers from south China.

The ice was disguised as cleaning chemicals shipped in containers from south China. Photo: Australian Federal Police

''A member of the public had seen that things weren't right at a particular location at a commercial premises and contacted the police.''

On Wednesday police searched six properties in Regents Park, Bexley North, Wakeley, Canley Heights, Beverly Hills and Ryde before arresting and charging the men with possessing a commercial quantity of drugs.

Tony Ming Ly, 21, an IT student at the University of Western Sydney, was refused bail at Central Local Court on Thursday. Mr Ly's co-accused, Hong Kong national Cheung Tuen, 51, and Singaporean national Boon Cheng Leow, 32, did not apply for bail, which was formally refused.

Major drug haul ... the record ice seizure is worth an estimated  $438 million.

Major drug haul ... the record ice seizure is worth an estimated $438 million. Photo: Australian Federal Police

Police allege Mr Ly hired a van the day before the three were arrested while attempting to transport the drugs from a Ryde storage facility.

In court, Mr Ly's mother offered the $400,000 Canley Heights family home as surety but Magistrate Les Mabbutt said the prosecution had a strong case and denied him bail.

Police allege Mr Ly was the driver of the van whose satellite navigation technology contained an address where officers seized 18 kilograms of iodine, commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, known as ice.

The storage facility at West Ryde.

The storage facility at West Ryde. Photo: Australian Federal Police

The 585 kilogram bust is almost double Australia's previous record of 300 kilograms, seized last July.

Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, the Asian crime squad commander, said the team first worked with a Customs and Border Protection Service officer embedded in their unit when the tip-off came in September.

Superintendent Cook said police learnt a shipment was due in late November or early December but it, and another shipment in January, turned out to be a dry run to test the syndicate's process.

585kg of ice ... police said it was unclear how long the syndicate had been operating in Australia.

585kg of ice ... police said it was unclear how long the syndicate had been operating in Australia. Photo: Australian Federal Police

The Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Tony Negus, said the Sydney end of the syndicate received the drugs disguised as cleaning chemicals shipped in containers from south China.

Police intercepted the shipment this week and replaced the ice with a fake consignment.

The director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Michael Farrell, said such a large quantity of drugs would have caused mayhem.

''We see cyclical epidemics. Ice is like a storm. It comes, rages, then goes away. At the moment there is not a big upsurge in ice but that's why we need to keep an eye on it,'' he said.

''Across the board we can say ecstasy use is going down, particularly among regular recreational drug users, while methamphetamine use is going up.''

The accused men will be before Central Local Court on May 8.

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