A container of mats from Iran that have been soaked in opium.
Criminal gangs are using various methods to import opium, such as soaking mats in the drug. Image by HANDOUT/AFP
  • crime, law and justice

Opium imports on the rise in Australia

Duncan Murray December 2, 2023

Opium imports are on the rise in Australia, as drug traffickers “impregnate” the highly addictive substance into everyday items to avoid detection.

Since the start of this year, Australian Federal Police seized 155kg of opium from more than 125 attempted imports via air, parcel and sea.

That’s more than double the amount seized in 2022 and roughly six times the amount detected in 2021.

Authorities are concerned criminal groups in Australia are using connections in the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan to source the illicit drug.

The mats in the container.
 A collection of mats, soaked in opium, found in a shipping container from Iran. Image by HANDOUT/AFP 

An Australian and Iranian man, aged 38 and 41, were arrested and charged in June after attempting to collect a shipment from Iran containing 23 mats which had been soaked and infused with opium.

The men were charged with importing a border-controlled substance and attempting to possess a border-controlled substance, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years jail.

They are due to face Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for a second time on December 19.

Opium resin is a sticky dark-brown gum that can consumed as a liquid or powder. and can be smoked, eaten and made into a tincture for drinking. 

Users face a high risk of addiction and overdose.

AFP Commander Paula Hudson said opium imports were rare in Australia and law enforcement would deal with the rising number of instances.

“The AFP, together with our state, territory and Commonwealth law enforcement partners, is committed to preventing the significant harm caused to our community as a result of these illicit drug imports,” she said.

“We’re reminding criminals that we not only seizing the drugs but arresting alleged offenders who are connected to the imports. 

“We will continue to work to target your illicit operations, identify you and bring you to justice.”