DRUG BUST: 300kg of ephedrine found hidden inside 21,000 highlighters

A MAN has been charged following a major investigation which uncovered around 300kg of ephedrine stashed inside 21,000 colourful highlighter pens.

The shock discovery was made on 10 February, when a container carrying five pallets of pens and other stationery arrived in Sydney from China.

The container was taken to the Australian Border Force’s Sydney Container Examination Facility for x-ray, where officers found anomalies in the 50 boxes of highlighters.


“The shipment was deconstructed and presumptive testing returned positive results for ephedrine with a total weight of 294 kg,” NSW Police said in a statement.

Police will allege in court that it’s estimated the precursor could have been used to make about 2.4 million hits of ‘ice’, with an estimated potential street value of $120 million.

Following the discovery, ABF investigators and detectives from the NSWPF Drug and Firearms Squad conducted a controlled delivery to a storage facility in Sydney’s Inner West.

Three men, aged 26, 27, and 34 were arrested after they allegedly accessed the consignment on Friday 23 February.


The 27-year-old man was charged with import commercial quantity border controlled precursor. He has been formally refused bail to reappear at Central Local Court on Wednesday.

The other two men have been released pending further inquiries.

ABF Investigations Superintendent Garry Low said while highlighters was a unique concealment method, ABF officers find drugs and precursors in almost anything.

“We’ve recently invested heavily in upgrades to x-ray technology at our container examination facilities, including here in Sydney, allowing our officers to see further in to each container and detect even more sophisticated concealments,” Superintendent Low said.

“This technology, combined with the significant skills of our investigators, and our collaboration with our state police colleagues has once again seen a large amount of precursors seized before it could be turned into millions of hits of ‘ice’.