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Cash, methamphetamine recovered as Police and Customs cut off organised crime group's link in NZ

02.44pm 13 February 2023 | News

Police and Customs have dismantled a twenty-fifth organised crime cell operating in New Zealand, seizing cash and methamphetamine in the process.

Search warrants conducted in Auckland this week resulted in one arrest, along with nearly half a million dollars and 14 kilograms of methamphetamine being located.

The warrants were a result of Operation Settler, a month-long investigation into a transnational organised crime group, operating out of Mexico, allegedly importing and distributing the harmful drug in New Zealand.

A 36-year-old male Mexican national is now before the Auckland District Court, charged with possession for supply of methamphetamine.

Detective Superintendent Greg Williams, Director of the National Organised Crime Group, says the operation targeted an alleged transnational organised crime cell (TNOC cell). 

There have now been 25 of these cells disrupted by Police and Customs in the last five years.

“These organised crime groups are constantly targeting New Zealand and, on many occasions, they are inserting their own people into the country,” Detective Superintendent Williams says.

“Once established here, they are importing illicit drugs, establishing supply lines to domestic markets and then moving their profits out of the country.”

Under Operation Settler, search warrants targeted a hotel and an Air BnB located in the Auckland region.

Detective Inspector Albie Alexander, of NOCG, says the methamphetamine was located during the search of the Air BnB.

“Police believe the methamphetamine recovered originated out of Mexico. Meanwhile, at the hotel based in Auckland City, we also discovered around $400,000 in cash.”

Detective Inspector Alexander says the outcomes are significant and shows the continuous impact the partnership between Police and Customs is achieving.

“Police are committed to targeting this sort of operation which is undermining the wellbeing of our communities and profiting off their misery.”

The quantity of methamphetamine located equates to a street value of approximately $4.9 million.

“This is a really good example of Customs’ expertise in identifying risks at the border and collaborating with Police in what is another successful joint operation to disrupt transnational organised crime groups that profit from the harm they inflict on our communities,” says Customs Acting Manager Investigations, Nigel Barnes.

“The National Drug Intelligence Bureau estimates the potential harm in New Zealand from 14 kilograms of methamphetamine would be around $15.5 million dollars.” 

Operation Settler remains ongoing and further arrests and charges cannot be ruled out.