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Christchurch man gets 16 years’ jail for drug smuggling and money laundering

07.20am 03 November 2022 | News

Thirty-two-year-old Sami Zagros was sentenced to 16 years in jail at the High Court in Christchurch today on a series of drug smuggling, money laundering and related charges resulting from an extensive Customs-led investigation in 2018.

Customs Investigations Manager, Cam Moore, described the smuggling activities controlled by Zagros as sophisticated. Sophistication was also applied by law enforcement to build the case and evidence dubbed Operation Resist.

“Investigations found the man was clearly a ringleader running a network of people for drug smuggling and distribution in Aotearoa New Zealand,” Mr Moore said.

“The joint Customs and Police investigation exposed links to a crime syndicate smuggling methamphetamine, mostly from Mexico and the USA, which was funding a lavish lifestyle in New Zealand, and involved laundering the criminal proceeds through bitcoin.

“Customs and Police put significant time, resources, and effort into breaking up this transnational organised criminal operation, which has led to a total of 41 successful convictions against those involved,” Cam Moore said.

Zagros accepted responsibility for smuggling or attempting to smuggle approximately eight kilograms of methamphetamine into New Zealand between May and September 2018, which was hidden in a range of goods declared as things like wedding gifts, toys, and clothing. That quantity is estimated to produce around 400,000 average common doses of methamphetamine.

Customs arrested Zagros in early September 2018.

During search warrants, around 14,000 MDMA (ecstasy) tablets were located at a Christchurch storage unit linked to him and which matched nearly two dozen MDMA tablets found at his home.

At the time, the joint operation led to the seizure of around $400,000 in cash and property from Zagros and his associates.

Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Johnson says Police remain committed to working with Customs and other partner agencies to disrupt and dismantle drug networks.

“Drugs like these cause significant social harm in our communities. Police and Customs will continue to target those who seek to profit from this type of crime.”