Two men from Basildon have appeared in court after 450kg of MDMA were found stashed in an excavator in Australia. 

William Sartin, 59, and Tony Borg, 42, are among a group of eight men charged in connection with the discovery. 

The excavator had been shipped to the Port of Brisbane in March last year where officers found the haul of MDMA - commonly known as ecstasy - hidden in a specially adapated boom of the machinery. 

It had been lined with lead to mask 226 packages of MDMA concealed inside.

After being emptied of the illegal load, the excavator was delivered to its intended recipient in Sydney.

A joint investigation between the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) was launched following the discovery. 

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NCA investigators found encrypted messages sent between January and June 2020 which detailed plans to purchase the excavator in the UK. 

They also found hand-drawn illustrations of the concealment within the boom, costs relating to the importation and confirmation that it had been loaded onto a vessel in Southampton on January 24 and arrived in Brisbane seven weeks later.

Sartin, of Timberlog Lane, and Borg, of Southwark Park, have been remanded in custody to appear at Kingston Crown Court on April 16 for a pre-trial hearing.

Two men, aged 33 and 42, have also been charged in Australia in connection with the investigation.