Australian police have seized thousands of tins of baby formula
Australian police say they have arrested six members of an “expansive” criminal gang which has been stealing baby formula for illegal sale in China.
Stolen formula valued at more than A$1m (£550,000; $720,000) had been sold in the past 12 months alone, police said.
But they said the syndicate had been operating for “a number of years”.
Australian formula has been nicknamed “white gold” in China because it is perceived to be safer and of better quality than locally produced products.
A man, 31, was arrested at Sydney International Airport on Saturday after stepping off a flight from China, New South Wales Police said.
Another three men and two women were arrested in recent months. Five of the six arrested had been charged.
Detective Supt Danny Doherty said the “lucrative” operation had sent thousands of shipments to China over several years.
“This was quite an expansive criminal group that was exploiting an overseas market at the disadvantage of the Australian public,” he told reporters on Monday.
Police also seized other stolen items, including vitamins, and more than A$215,000 in cash.
Police seized more than A$215,000 in cash, alleged to be the proceeds of crime
Australian parents have complained about a shortage of formula in recent years.
Last year, one Australian supermarket chain decided to sell baby formula from behind a counter to protect customers with a “genuine need” for it.
According to Australia media, tins of formula bought for about A$30 in Australia have been resold for approximately A$100 in China.