Two in court over $300m Dutch MDMA plot

·2-min read

Two Sydney men have appeared in a Queensland court over a plot to import MDMA worth more than $300 million into Australia from the Netherlands.

Tony Spitaleri, 46, and 19-year-old Anthony Squadrito were shoe-less in the Brisbane Magistrates Court dock on Friday as they appeared on charges relating to the 850kg drug haul.

The court heard they were arrested in Sydney on Wednesday before being extradited to Queensland.

They did not apply for bail and their matters are due to be mentioned in the same court on May 28.

AFP Detective Superintendent Helen Schneider said in a press conference on Friday the arrests are a significant win against international illicit drug trade.

"Transnational organised crime networks pose a significant threat to Australia's economy, our security and our way of life," Detective Superintendent Schneider said.

"Today's arrests should serve as a fresh warning to organised criminals abroad and onshore, our investigators never give up."

National Police of the Netherlands (NPN) Chief Constable (Commander) Andy Kragg praised the collaborative international effort.

"A great result by Australian law enforcement," he said.

"By continuously and relentlessly targeting key players, through international collaboration, we demonstrate how we can dismantle these international criminal networks, no matter how long it takes."

Dutch authorities - tipped off by the Australian Federal Police and Queensland officers in August 2019 - raided 15 locations in Belgium and Rotterdam, uncovering drug labs disguised to look like barns from the outside, according to police.

Hundreds of kilos of hard and liquid drugs and other drug paraphernalia were concealed within fake walls, floors and ceilings of the buildings.

In all, 850kg of crystalline methyl enedioxy methamphetamin or MDMA was seized, along with 548 litres of MDMA oil and 400 litres of precursor chemicals.

That is enough to make 15 million MDMA pills with a street value of more than $300 million, the AFP said in a statement.

Australia is a primary market in the global drug trade because locals are willing to pay a high price for substances that cost a mere fraction elsewhere.

An MDMA pill that costs 20 cents in Amsterdam will fetch $20 to $30 on Australian streets.