3 people have been arrested and charged on Monday for allegedly manufacturing ice in a lab discovered by police in a home in South Australia.

The lab is reportedly capable of producing over a hundred million dollars of ice, which has now been shut down by police as it was being expanded.

Amongst the items found in the suburban home were large numbers of precursor chemicals, including acids, iodine and hundreds of kilograms of pseudoephedrine powder.

A resident from the quiet street said, “It’s a pretty quiet street, I was very surprised”.

The drug bust has been described as one of the biggest found in South Australian history which reportedly appears to have been operating for a while.

Detective Superintendent Mark Trenwith was reported saying that police were looking into whether there were any bikie links, however no such links have been found.

Similarly, just weeks earlier on 7 October, specialist members of the serious and organised crime branch in South Australia also discovered one of South Australia’s biggest clandestine laboratories in a home which was located only a few hundred meters from a primary school.

Police discovered 11kg of methamphetamine (also known as ice) in a quiet south Australian neighbourhood, which was worth an estimated five and a half million dollars.

2 men, one 36 and the other 40 were arrested and charged with allegedly manufacturing a large commercial quantity of a controlled drug (methamphetamine).

Detective Superintendent Mark Trenwith reportedly said that he came across naked flames and strong chemical smells at the time of arresting the men at the property. He was also reported saying that it was a “recipe for disaster… this is a significant seizure and will potentially prevent kilograms of ice worth millions of dollars hitting streets… the money involved is astronomical… (And) it’s really concerning this lab was located in a quiet suburban neighbourhood”.

The drugs are suspected of having linkes to an overseas crime syndicate.

With significant profits to be made, there appears to be enough motivation for people to get involved in manufacturing and importing drugs.

Earlier in February this year, 3 men were arrested and charged for allegedly importing methamphetamine into South Australia. The bust involved 313kg of methamphetamine worth around $270 million- the biggest drug bust in SA history ever.

The Undercover Operation

After South Australia police were made aware of the shipment, the Australian Border Force were contacted.

The consignment which was a sea-cargo shipment, believed to be arriving from Southeast Asia, was intercepted when the three-hundred and thirteen bags containing white crystals were found to be secreted inside the metal base of one of the jib arms.

The crystals that were found returned a positive result for methamphetamine and were subsequently swapped with an identical looking package to avoid raising suspicion.

Unaware the packages were subject to an undercover surveillance operation, police arrested the men for importing drugs when the three men were found to be involved with the package once it arrived at its intended destination in Adelaide.

What Impact Do Drug Busts Have?

Given that these kinds of drug busts have a life imprisonment sentence, drug busts of this magnitude can act as a deterrent to prevent others from being involved in this anti-social behaviour.

Cyber Neil Gaughan and the Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner for Organised Crime were reported saying that the men charged if found guilty will ‘probably spend the rest of their lives in jail. They took a gamble and they lost, and they lost in a big way… the AFP will work with its international partners to determine where these drugs have come from and we’ll work with our international partners to disrupt the drugs making at its source.’

Michael White, from the South Australian Network of Drug and Alcohol Services executive officer was reported saying that @reducing the availability and increasing the price of illicit drugs can lessen the amount being used in the community… However, even such a large drug seizure is likely to have a very limited effect on price or supply… whilst there has been limited research on how big seizures affect the market, those that have been done show that the effects are small and short lived.’

Mr. White was also reported saying, ‘where a large seizure increases prove, it can make it more lucrative for others to enter the market or grow their business. As long as there is demand, people will seek to import or manufacture drugs for profit.’

What is the Law and Penalties for Manufacturing Drug Charges in NSW?

A person guilty of manufacturing drugs will face a penalty ranging from 2 years to life imprisonment depending on the type of drug and weight of the drugs found.

This is reflected in section 24 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW).

See the below table to see the maximum penalties for the various drug and quantity categories.

Quantity If Local Court If District Court In District Court (Cannabis plant/leaf)
Less than Small Q 2 years imprisonment and/or $5,500 fine  

15 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine


10 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine

More than Small Q but less than Indictable Q 2 years imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine  

15 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine


10 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine

More than Indictable Quantity but less than Commercial Quantity 2 years imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine  

15 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine


10 years imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine

More than Commercial Quantity but less than Large Commercial Quantity Cannot be dealt with in Local Court  

20 years imprisonment and/or $385,000 fine

15 years imprisonment and/or $385,000 fine

More than Large Commercial Quantity


Cannot be dealt with in Local Court


Life imprisonment and/or $550,000 fine


20 years imprisonment and/or $550,000 fine


Prohibited Plant/Drug Small Q Trafficable Q Indictable Q Commercial Q Large Commercial Q
Amphetamine 1 g 3.0 g 5 g 250.0 g 1 kg
Cannabis Leaf 30 g 300 g 1000 g 25.0 g 100 g
Cannabis Oil 2 g 5 g 10 g 500.0 g 2 kg
Cannabis Resin 5 g 30 g 90 g 2.5 Kg 10 Kg
Cocaine 1 g 3 g 5 g 250.0 g 1 Kg
Heroin 1 g 3 g 5 g 250.0 g 1 Kg
Lysergic acid 0.0008 g 0.003 g 0.005 g 0.5 g 2 g
Methylamphetamine 1 g 3 g 5 g 250 g 1 Kg
MDMA/Ecstasy 0.25 g 0.75 g 1.25 g 125 g 500g

A person will be guilty of manufacturing or knowingly taking part in the manufacture or production of a prohibited drug if the police can prove that the accused person:

  1. Manufactured a prohibited drug; or
  2. Produced a prohibited drug; or
  3. ‘Knowingly took part in’ the manufacturing or production of a prohibited drug; and
  4. The substance is actually a prohibited drug confirmed by forensic examination.

What Does ‘Manufacture’ Mean?

Section 36ZD of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) defines ‘manufacture’ which means
the process of extracting or refining the drug and includes manufacturing something with a view to using it in the manufacturing process of the desired end product.

What Does ‘Knowingly Take Part In’ Mean?

Knowingly taking part in the manufacture of a drug includes taking or causing steps to be taken (or participating) in the process of manufacturing a drug.

It also includes where a person provides a home or building for the manufacturing of a drug or where a person provides or arranges finance for doing this.

What are the Defences to Drug Manufacture Charges in NSW?

A person charged for drug manufacturing offences will have his/her charge dismissed if any one of the following defences apply:

  1. Where your actions are merely taking steps preparatory to the process of manufacturing. i.e. obtaining or transporting ingredients and implements to later be used in the manufacturing of drugs.
  2. For a charge of ‘taking part in manufacturing’, you will be not guilty if:
    • The extent of participation is loading equipment for drug manufacturing onto a vehicle and then transporting it.
    • You take part in attempting to manufacture a drug from substances being substances which are unable to produce the drug.
    • You purchase and possess some of the substances (or materials) from which the drug may be made, and your actions are not considered part of a systematic, planned or pre-arranged series of actions or operations.
  3. Necessity or Duress.


Any questions arising from this blog? Our team attend all courts and are available 24/7 for a discussion.

We have experienced criminal lawyers in Wollongong, Newcastle and Blacktown offices.

AUTHOR Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.

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