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Cocaine seized in Customs investigation in Tauranga

03.19pm 25 September 2023 | News

A recent early morning attempted break-in at the Port of Tauranga has ended with Customs seizing an estimated 26 kilograms of cocaine, with Police arresting three alleged offenders.

Port of Tauranga Security contacted Police last weekend (16 and 17 September) when signs of an attempted break-in were detected, three arrests followed.

Customs officers subsequently searched 36 containers over the two days that were destined for various parts of New Zealand both in Tauranga and Auckland.

One search located a quantity of plastic-wrapped ‘bricks’ inside the refrigeration unit of a refrigerated shipping container, which were later confirmed to be cocaine.

Customs estimates the 26 kilograms seized could have produced around 260,000 doses worth nearly $12 million in street sales. According to the Drug Harm Index, this seizure has prevented nearly $8 million in social harm.

Customs Group Manager Maritime, Paul Campbell, says the time the activity took, and volume of containers searched by Customs teams from Auckland and Tauranga demonstrates the magnitude of protecting the modern maritime supply chain.

“A significant quantity of cocaine has been stopped from ending up in our communities. This result is thanks to close collaboration with our partners. Police were outstanding in their support and the Port of Tauranga security team maintained their tradition of vigilance by alerting authorities straight away,” Paul Campbell said.

Detective Senior Sergeant Steve Ambler said, “Police thank Customs staff for their vigilance at the border. Together we will continue to investigate, and hold to account, those involved in the importation and distribution of controlled drugs in New Zealand.

“Police are committed to disrupting organised criminal groups and the supply and distribution of illicit drugs in our communities.”

Leonard Sampson, Port of Tauranga Chief Executive, thanked Customs and Police for their quick response.

“Port Security did an outstanding job in identifying suspicious activity on the port boundary and I thank our team for their ongoing vigilance,” Mr Sampson said.

“Customs is seeing an increase in quantities of drugs attempting to be smuggled into New Zealand, particularly via shipping channels. We remain alert to trends and use our network of intelligence and investigative resources to identify, target and stop such criminal activities,” Mr Campbell said.