Police find tear gas lipstick in shipping container

It could be a gadget straight out of a James Bond flick.

From the outside, it appears to be an innocent lipstick tube, available in a variety of colours from red and pink to shimmering white.

But pop off the lid and you'll find that, in this case at least, lipstick can quite literally be a woman's secret weapon.

The fake cosmetics arrived in Sydney on a shipping container from China on Friday, as part of a major shipment of illegal weapons that included more than 70 electronic stun guns disguised as iPhones and flashlights, and more than 200 replica pistols.

Also found in the shipping container were 50 extendable batons, 60 sets of knuckle dusters, and BB gun ammunition.

Detective Acting Superintendent Wayne Walpole, the commander of the Firearms and Organised Crime Squad, said he had never before encountered tear gas lipstick or mobile phone stun guns during any of the search warrants conducted in his career.

"It looks like something 99 would carry," he said of the lipstick, referring to the secret agent from the television show Get Smart.

"They're just normal-looking lipstick tubes, pink, red, white, and you take the lid off and you can shoot tear gas at people. They would be very dangerous used the wrong way in the public.

"The actual boxes that they come in don't disguise what they are. They're proper, printed boxes."

Police allege the items were destined for sale at public markets around Sydney.

A 49-year-old woman was arrested at a home in St Andrews on Tuesday and has been charged with importing tier two prohibited goods. She was remanded to appear at Campbelltown Local Court on Wednesday.

Superintendent Walpole said anyone convicted of importing prohibited goods such as these into NSW faced a maximum jail term of 10 years.

But anyone who bought the prohibited weapons at markets could also face charges.

"It's a criminal offence to have one, because you're in possession of a prohibited article, so it's quite serious. Anyone who may have these, or if they've inadvertently come across them, should hand them in or contact Crime Stoppers at the very least, because they are an illegal item," he said.

He said Friday's seizure at the NSW Container Examination Facility came after Fairfield police arrested a 59-year-old market stall operator several weeks ago who was accused of selling prohibited weapons.

During that operation, police seized 67 replica pistols, 325 electronic shock devices, 64 extendable batons, 162 laser pointers, 63 butterfly knives, 281 knuckle dusters, 38 sling shots and 10 boxes of human growth hormone.

The market stall operator was charged with unauthorised possession of firearms in aggravated circumstances, supplying a firearm on an ongoing basis, possessing unauthorised firearms, possessing prohibited weapons, supplying prohibited weapons, and possessing prescribed restricted substances.

That investigation was then handed to to the NSW Police Firearms and Organised Crime Squad and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for further investigation under Strike Force Kentmer.

"This was some good police work by some young uniform guys at the Fairfield local area command who got into this in the first place. Their work led us to form a strike force and dig a bit deeper and we came up with this shipment that arrived in Sydney on Friday," he said.

Superintendent Walpole said there were some countries where items such as lipstick tear gas were legal.

Some businesses in China are selling them online for as low as $5 a tube, but it is an offence to import them into Australia.

Police are urging anyone with information about the possession or sale of prohibited weapons to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.

smh.com.au

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