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story.lead_photo.caption Seized methamphetamine is displayed Friday in Melbourne, Australia.

Australia seizes 1.8 tons of Thai meth

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Australian officials have seized the nation's largest haul of methamphetamine at the Melbourne waterfront, nearly 1.8 tons of the illegal drug hidden in stereo speakers shipped from Bangkok, authorities said Friday.

Australian border police said the drugs were in a form known as crystal meth, or ice, and were seized along with 82 pounds of heroin.

Police have yet to make an arrest, police said.

Border police Cmdr. Craig Palmer said the seizure would have a significant effect on the supply of the drug in Victoria state.

"This is the largest meth bust we've ever seen in this country and demonstrates not only the brazen nature of those involved in this criminal activity, but the resolve of the [border police] in Victoria and around the country to stop these imports," he said.

Australia is increasingly being targeted by international drug cartels because of its relatively high prices for illegal drugs. Illicit drugs other than marijuana had been seen as primarily a problem of large cities, but the crystal form of meth is now having a devastating effect on regional and rural communities.

Thai deputy police spokesman Col. Krissana Pattanacharoen said police in Bangkok had just received reports of the drug seizure and were ready to cooperate with Australian authorities.

Boat's flip kills 3 rescuers off France

PARIS -- A boat carrying maritime rescuers who set off to help a fishing boat in trouble in wind-whipped waters off the western coast of France overturned Friday, killing three people, according to French authorities.

An official in the Vendee region said the four other people in the rescue boat were safe but that the fishing boat had yet to be found.

The Atlantic maritime district later said rescue workers were searching for one fisherman in an area close to Les Sables d'Olonne off the Atlantic coast of France after a lifeboat was found empty and washed up on rocks.

Wind gusts were measured at up to 75 mph on Friday, and the National Society of Sea Rescue, which sent out the boat, had warned on Twitter to avoid coastal regions.

Prosecution over Brexit claim is tossed

LONDON -- Britain's High Court quashed a bid to prosecute Conservative lawmaker Boris Johnson, who was accused of lying during the country's 2016 European Union membership referendum.

Two judges on Friday threw out a lower court's ruling that Johnson should be summoned to answer questions about Brexit campaigners' claim that Britain pays $446 million a week to the EU. The net figure Britain sends is about half that.

Activist Marcus Ball lodged a private prosecution against Johnson, who helped lead the "leave" campaign, for misconduct in public office.

Johnson's lawyers argued the prosecution was politically motivated, and said the $446 million figure "was just a political claim" that voters could accept or reject.

Johnson is currently the favorite to succeed Theresa May, who stepped down Friday as Conservative Party leader.

Spain sends Taiwanese suspects to China

BEIJING -- Spain has extradited 94 Taiwanese to China to face charges involving telephone and online fraud, drawing protest from Taiwan's government.

The suspects arrived Friday morning at Beijing's airport on a chartered flight. Footage on state broadcaster China Central Television showed uniformed officers escorting them off the China Eastern plane one by one.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry expressed "serious concern and strong regret," according to the island's official Central News Agency.

The extraditions are the latest stemming from a 2016 investigation into Spain-based scam operations that targeted victims in China. Police from both countries raided 13 sites in Madrid, Barcelona and elsewhere in Spain in December of that year, the Chinese Public Security Ministry said.

The amount of money involved totaled $17 million, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Similar scams operate from several countries and usually prey on Chinese. The callers typically masquerade as Chinese authorities and pressure or persuade the victims to transfer money to the scammers' accounts.

Spain has extradited 225 suspects to date, including 218 Taiwanese.

Taiwan split from China in 1949 during a civil war, but China still considers Taiwan part of its territory. The two sides agreed in 2009 to fight crime jointly, but Beijing broke off contacts after the election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who is less friendly to China than her predecessor.

Shortly before she took office, Beijing began demanding that Kenya, Malaysia, Spain and other countries send phone- and computer-fraud suspects to China.

On Friday, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry called on Spain to uphold the spirit of humanity and the principle of human rights and to cooperate with Taiwan in the fight against transnational crime, the Central News Agency reported.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

Photo by AP/YIN GANG
Police sit on a plane at Beijing’s international airport with Taiwanese fraud suspects who were extradited Friday from Spain.

A Section on 06/08/2019

Print Headline: Australia seizes 1.8 tons of Thai meth Spain send Taiwanese suspects to China Boat's flip kills 3 rescuers off France Prosecution over Brexit claim is tossed


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