Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Australian police said a man was arrested after officers found nearly 650 pounds ephedrine, an important ingredient in making meth, inside highlighter markers.
The New South Wales Police Force said it opened a joint investigation with the Australian Border Force after 50 boxes of highlighters, containing a total of about 21,000 pens, were put under an X-ray at the ABF's Sydney Container Examination Facility.
The X-ray detected anomalies in the pens, which had arrived in Sydney from China along with other stationary items, and further testing determined they were concealing 648 pounds of ephedrine, an ingredient in making crystal meth, or "ice" as it is commonly known in Australia.
Police said the ephedrine could have been used to make about $120 million worth of methamphetamine.
Investigators conducted a controlled delivery of the shipment on Friday to a shortage facility in Sydney and three men, ages 24, 27 and 34, were arrested after they allegedly accessed the consignment.
The 27-year-old man was charged with importing a precursor to a controlled substance, while the other two men were released pending further investigation.
"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," ABF Investigations Superintendent Garry 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,'" he said.