The Associated Press
A customs agent unpacks tins disguised as canned tomato holding ecstasy tablets at a Melbourne warehouse.
SYDNEY, Australia — Australian Federal Police have busted an international drug ring and seized nearly 5 tons of ecstasy in what they say is the world's single largest seizure of the pills.
The joint operation with the Australian Customs Service led to the arrests Friday of 16 people across Australia who were allegedly involved in the distribution and trafficking of the drugs.
The two agencies said in a joint statement the investigation began in June 2007 when a shipping container from Italy arrived in Melbourne and was found to hold 3,000 tomato cans containing ecstasy pills with an estimated street value of A$440 million ($396 million).
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Officials substituted the 4.9 tons (4.4 metric tons) of ecstasy with another substance and then tracked the delivery.