How police used fake cocaine to bust a drug ring

STORY: This is the moment Australian authorities dropped 1.2 metric tons of fake cocaine 40 miles off the coast of Perth.

This scene, at the end of December, was a key part of a joint U.S-Australian law enforcement operation that's seized nearly $700 million worth of cocaine, linked to a Mexican cartel, and resulted in the arrest of 12 suspects.

On Saturday (March 4), Western Australia police commissioner Col Blanch released details about 'Operation Beech'.

"...we got some information from the Drug Enforcement Administration out of the Sydney office that approximately 2.4 tonnes of cocaine was going to make its way to Australia to be distributed throughout our country. The Drug Enforcement Administration sought the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard and just off the coast of Ecuador they took out packages equalling nearly 3 tonnes containing cocaine. We've used the quantity 2.4 because that's our estimate of the actual cocaine once you take the packaging away."

That cocaine was equivalent to roughly half Australia' estimated annual consumption.

"Over a number of weeks, our officers from the Transnational Serious and Organised Crime squad and other officers assisted to reconstruct those identical packages and drop 1.2 tonnes of those drugs into the ocean, 40 miles off the coast."

Three suspected members of the "Australian arm of a drug syndicate" were arrested on December 30 with the fake cocaine.

They had allegedly made three trips through rough seas to collect the packages.

A further nine arrests have been made and a large quantity of cash seized.

A 39-year-old male U.S. citizen was among the 12 charged, police said.

Blanch said the operation sends a message to international traffickers that "your deadly drugs are not welcome here".