A 23-year-old builder who lives with his parents in the suburbs of Canberra was arrested on Tuesday after authorities intercepted more than 350 kilograms of ecstasy destined for Fyshwick.
Tamim Jamaal Nozhat faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Wednesday charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
On May 17, border force authorities in Sydney using X-rays spotted "anomalies" in a air cargo consignment of pool cleaner from Hamburg, Germany and destined for a commercial address in Fyshwick.
The eight cardboard boxes contained 144 buckets marked as chlorine. Nestled in the loose powder were plastic bags containing an off-white crystalline substance.
The substance tested positive to MDMA.
Police allegedly found more than 356 kilograms of the drug with the potential to make 1.2 million tablets with an estimated street value of up to $40.5 million.
After a seven-month investigation, Crace man Mr Nozhat was arrested at a construction site in Lawson and on Wednesday faced court, where he applied for bail.
In documents tendered to court, police allege Mr Nozhat started pool cleaning company Wholesale Pool Supplies, of which he is a sole director, and used a suspected false identity to import the drugs into Australia.
Mr Nozhat is alleged to have rented the commercial property in Fyshwick where the drugs were addressed.
There is no suggestion Mr Nozhat's Canberra building business, Fusion Homes, is anything other than legitimate.
In court, federal prosecutor Edward Chen opposed the man's release, citing police and prosecution fears he would flee.
He pointed to the man's connections in Germany, and Afghanistan, where members of his family lived.
He said the amount allegedly imported was "staggering", he had access to large amounts of money, and if convicted would face a significant term of imprisonment.
He said the prosecution case was strong.
"The incentive to flee is immense."
But defence solicitor Michael Kukulies-Smith told the court police interviewed Mr Nozhat and searched his home in May, and so the man had known since then that he was under investigation.
Police had obtained nothing substantial in relation to the investigation since July, the lawyer said, and since then Mr Nozhat had been allowed to speak to witnesses, and even leave the country once.
It was "extraordinary" police were now saying the man was a flight risk, he said.
But Magistrate Beth Campbell refused bail.
She said if anything it seemed to her the man may have been emboldened by the time it took for his arrest, thinking he had got away with the alleged offence.
She said that changed on Tuesday, and he had now been arrested and charged.
She noted the sophistication of the alleged crime, the access to large amounts of money and suggestions he may have been involved in fake identities.
She was not satisfied any bail conditions would mitigate the risk of flight.
The case returns to court on December 20.
Outside court on Wednesday, senior members of the Australian Border Force, ACT Policing and the Australian Federal Police addressed the media on the joint operation that led to Mr Nozhat's arrest.
Canberra's deputy chief police officer Mark Walters said while the drugs were seized out of the ACT, it was the most significant bust of drugs destined for the territory.
"The impact on the community if that had hit the streets would have been quite significant," he said.
"In terms of the organised criminal syndicate that are behind these importations and the distribution they pray on people suing drugs to profit from them."
He said police were dedicated to reducing not only the supply of drugs, but also helping reduce demand.
"We know the harmful effects of illicit drugs on the community, we encourage people to refrain from using illicit drugs," he said.
Australian Border Force acting commissioner Sharon Huey said authorities had the technology, resources, and intelligence to target and disrupt drug importations.
Authorities said investigations were ongoing.