Reuters International

By Matt Siegel

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian police said on Friday that they had arrested 14 people, including six Malaysian and eight Chinese nationals, in connection with the importation of approximately 200 kilograms (440.92 lb) of methamphetamine into the country.

An organised crime taskforce launched an investigation after a ship carrying the eight Chinese nationals was detained in early May 185 kilometres (114.95 miles) off the coast of Western Australia state after it began acting suspiciously, police said.

Raids on properties following the detention of the crew led to the arrest of the Malaysian nationals, and the seizure of 150 kg and 50 kg of meth in two separate locations.

"As a result of the investigations and successful search warrants, six Malaysian nationals, all males aged between 24 and 54 years old, were charged," Detective Constable Gary Dreiberg told reporters.

"The eight Chinese nationals, all males aged between 37 and 56 years old, who were aboard the vessel have been charged in relation to this drug seizure."

Police called it the second largest bust in the state's history, trailing only a 320 kilo haul in September. Police estimates put the street value of the latest seizure at roughly A$200 million (98.5 million pounds).

Earlier this year Reuters revealed that risks of money laundering and underground fund-transfers were growing in Australia.

The decision by Australia's major banks to quit the country's $35 billion a year remittance business last year is driving fund-transfers underground and exposing the country as a weak link in the global fight against money laundering and financial crime, regulators, operators who handle remittances and police said.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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