Next month, two Queanbeyan men will face a committal hearing for allegedly importing the largest amount of cocaine ever seized in our local region.
The $144 million bust was a joint operation led by ACT police, and involved Border Force and federal police as the shipment came in from South Africa secreted inside the lifting arm of a second-hand excavator trucked down from Port Botany and destined for a landscape supplies company in Bungendore.
The size of the shipment, and the sophistication of its concealment, was a surprise even to police. It took two days to remove all 384 kilograms, substitute it for an inert substance, then repaint and restore the excavator to its original condition.
Police say the cocaine was to be sold into the ACT and regional markets.
Just last week, half a tonne of cocaine was found in a Cessna twin-engine light aircraft which crashed at an airfield just outside Port Moresby just after take-off. It was the biggest cocaine haul in PNG history.
One man died in the crash - suspected to have occurred because the plane, bound for Queensland, was so overloaded - and five others in Queensland and Victoria have been arrested in connection with the seizure.
Ask anyone who works in the nightclub industry in Canberra and they'll tell you our city is awash with cocaine, even though prices here are reported to be among the highest in the Western world.
Cocaine in Canberra costs anywhere between $250 to $400 a gram. Compare this with the US, where the average gram costs between US$40 to $80, and the UK, where it costs around 60 pounds, and it's easy to understand why criminals here are so willing to risk everything for a huge payday.
Some cocaine arrives in small quantities by post. Such are the massive profits to be made that even working on the assumption of a 50 per cent loss rate through seizures there is still plenty to go around for those involved.
A 2018 Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission report found that Australia had the second largest number of dark web drug dealers per capita, behind the Netherlands. Almost all operate using the the postal system.
But criminal syndicates are always searching for a lucrative return, and police know that Australia's bikie gangs are major players in cross-border trafficking and distribution. The bikies' code of silence also helps protect the organisational kingpins.
Upcoming court trials in Canberra and in NSW will reveal a tantalising glimpse into the underbelly of the national capital, and how it is supplied with illegal substances.