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Australia Seizes Record Haul of Illicit Opioid Fentanyl 

FILE - Plastic bags of Fentanyl are displayed on a table at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area at the International Mail Facility at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, Nov. 29, 2017.

Australian police have seized their largest-ever shipment of the deadly illicit drug fentanyl. The U.S. $18.6 million haul also included 30 kilograms of methamphetamine and was found in industrial equipment sent from Canada in December last year.

Australian police are describing gang members who tried to smuggle 11kilograms of opioid fentanyl from Canada as “parasites.”

Fentanyl is used by doctors to treat chronic pain. Australian authorities say its misuse overseas has reached “epidemic” levels, causing thousands of deaths a year. Authorities announced the sting on Monday, describing the discovery of the drug hidden in machinery at a port in Melbourne as “extraordinary.”

Investigators say the opioid is often mixed with heroin, often resulting in fatal consequences.

“This operation has stopped more than five million — five million — potentially lethal doses of this drug hitting our streets," said Acting Australian Federal Police Commander Anthony Hall. "Fentanyl is a fast-acting opioid that is highly addictive and acts on the same receptors in the body as unfortunately the other drug that we know about, heroin.”

The illicit haul was found last December in a lathe used for wood or metal working. Border Force agents initially noticed the machine’s poor-quality welding and paintwork. The drugs were discovered inside.

Details of the seizure are only now being released because of the “complexity and sensitivity of the ongoing investigation.”

The investigation is continuing. No arrests have been made.

Police also seized 30 kilograms of methamphetamine, which is colloquially known as ‘ice’ in Australia.

In June, a report by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, a government agency, said that Australia had the highest reported use of methamphetamine, an illicit synthetic stimulant, per person in the world.

The study stated that the use of fentanyl in Australia “fluctuated” and “remained low compared to other drugs.” It noted, however, that abuse of the prescribed pain killer ketamine, which is administered by medical professionals and veterinarians as an anesthetic, was “of growing concern.”