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Customs’ biggest methamphetamine seizure

11.54am 06 September 2019 | News

Customs has seized an estimated 469 kg of methamphetamine hidden inside a shipment of electric motors, and arrested three men in connection with the drugs.

This is Customs’ largest ever methamphetamine seizure at the border.

Two Canadians and a New Zealand national are appearing in the Auckland District Court today. Further arrests are likely.

They face charges for the importation and possession of a class A controlled drug, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

In mid- 2019, Customs began an investigation into an overseas criminal syndicate, and enquiries linked individuals to a New Zealand-based company. In mid-August, a shipment from Thailand was assessed as high-risk and searched by Customs officers when it arrived at the Ports of Auckland.

The shipping container held 60 electric motors, and each motor hid an average of around eight kilograms of methamphetamine. The 469 kilograms of seized methamphetamine has an estimated street value of around NZ$235 million.

This led to a significant joint investigation by Customs and Police to gather evidence that identified those persons and companies that have been involved in this import.

Last night and this morning around 65 Customs and Police staff executed a series of search warrants across Auckland finding another 15 kilograms of methamphetamine, a hand gun, and a large quantity of cash.

Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry says this seizure of almost half a tonne of methamphetamine is the result of solid intelligence and investigative work maximising Customs' expertise on border movements.

"It's a known international trend for overseas nationals to come into the country just to receive and distribute drug shipments. They use storage units or commercial premises and hire homes on Airbnb as part of their illegal activity."

"This seizure has disrupted a significant amount of drugs from reaching communities, and has deprived organised crime groups off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of profits."

"Customs will continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies here and offshore, as well as industry partners, individuals and businesses, to target shipments and syndicates."

"We urge storage units, commercial premises, and Airbnb operators to be alert so they don't unwittingly become involved in criminal activity. If it seems suspicious, call 0800 4 CUSTOMS in confidence," Mr Berry says.

Detective Superintendent Greg Williams says the seizure is yet another example of the work being done to make New Zealand more resilient to transnational crime.

"The 469 kilograms of methamphetamine seized by Customs equates to what would have been at least $235 million in revenue to organised crime groups.

"This would have been drawn out of vulnerable communities across New Zealand, going into the pockets of gangs and international syndicates.".

"This also equates to between 22 and 26 weeks' supply of national consumption, according to wastewater analysis figures. It would have caused $582 million worth of social harm to our communities.

Detective Superintendent Williams says methamphetamine devastates many vulnerable communities while organised crime groups continue to profit off of this.

"Enforcement agencies like Police and Customs are working in partnership with international partners and we now have a far better understanding of how transnational organised crime now operates.

Police and Customs urge anyone with information about drug offending to contact local Police or Customs office, or provide information anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.