Illegal importers of ‘date rape’ drug warned of serious consequences

The AFP and ABF are warning of the serious consequences of illegally importing 1,4 Butanediol – commonly known as bute, a harmful substance that is linked to sexual assaults and overdoses.

From March 2024, bute was defined as a border controlled drug (Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Omnibus No.2) Act 2023). This change means those convicted of illegally importing bute will face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

More than 4200 litres of ‘bute’ have been seized in Sydney following the change in legislation.

Australian law enforcement has reported escalating harm resulting from bute, which can be used as a substitute for the illegal drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB).

Bute is an industrial solvent the body naturally converts into GHB once ingested, depressing and slowing down the functions of a person’s nervous system.

AFP Eastern Commander Kate Ferry said the recent seizures of 1,4 Butanediol was a concern for policing agencies across Australia.

“Bute is an industrial chemical used to produce plastics and can be a significant danger if consumed,” Commander Ferry said.

“The concerns of law enforcement agencies are rising because of reports bute is being increasingly linked to sexual assaults, as well as overdoses.

“Any illicit substance can have dire consequences for the Australian community – the users, their family, friends and broader community are all affected.

“Our message to the community is to stop taking this drug. Stop creating this international demand. Stop supporting criminal groups who seek to profit from the pain of others.

“Importers should be wary of on-selling large amounts of obscurely labelled goods and should report suspicious activity to Border Watch online.

“The AFP and its partners are committed to targeting and disrupting those who attempt to import them into Australia.”

ABF Acting Commander Asha Patwardhan said those attempting to illegally import this substance should be on high alert.

“Our Border Force officers are observing individuals and criminal syndicates attempting to import bute in concerning volumes, and we are detecting and disrupting this activity every day across the country,” Acting Commander Patwardhan said.

“Bute can be described as a dual-use substance, which is defined as a substance with legitimate industry use, but is also commonly used as an illicit substance or precursor.

“This substance is often concealed in varying ways, but ABF officers are seeing bute hidden within body oils, face masks, or food products.

“The misuse of this substance can prove fatal – and those in the community need to be aware of the dangers.”

ABF officers detected about 180 litres of bute imported to Australia from China, concealed in bottles labelled as body oil, on 7 March, 2024.

The AFP later executed search warrants at business addresses in the Sydney suburbs of Fairfield and Lidcombe, which resulted in the further seizure of more than 1000 litres of bute. This resulted in a total seizure of 1407 litres.

The ABF alerted the AFP to another detection of bute imported to Sydney from China on 23 March, 2024. This consignment was estimated to contain 960 litres of this dangerous substance concealed in bottles labelled as essence oil. Further inquiries led to the seizure of an additional 180 litres of bute.

An importation of 660 litres of the drug was seized in early May, 2024, after the recipient alerted authorities on becoming aware of the change in legislation. The drug consignment had been exported in late 2023.

Bute can be legally imported into Australia for legitimate industrial use by importers that are registered with the Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme.

The substance is used in the production of plastics and polymers.

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