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French visitor arrested for 24 kg cocaine haul

01.53pm 21 December 2017 | News

It will not be a white Christmas in Northland after Customs officers foiled a 26-year-old French national’s plans when they seized 24 kg of cocaine in Paihia yesterday.

The man, who is appearing in the Whangarei District Court today was arrested after an extensive investigation by Customs which began in early December.

The cocaine seizure is one of the largest in New Zealand, with a street value estimated to be between $6.8 and $10.8 million.

Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry says the arrest is a testament to the work carried out by Customs that includes profiling using advance information and working with police and other agencies domestically and internationally, such as the Australian Border Force.

“In this instance, we’ve seen the difference that an integrated approach can make in how we are responding to the risk across all our borders. It is also a testament to the tenacity of Customs officers, including our response and intelligence units and frontline staff whose hard work has produced a great result,” says Mr Berry.

“We also acknowledge the partnership and collaboration with police, whose assistance has played a part in the success of this operation. 

“We know that organised crime syndicates are attempting to subvert and undermine our border processes at every opportunity, and results like this highlight the importance of the work that goes into profiling to identify risk at the border.  

This is an example of trans-national crime syndicates attempting to use new routes to import drugs. Customs is aware of this – it doesn’t matter if it’s a cruise ship, a plane or container, we look for risk everywhere.”

“Yesterday’s seizure and arrest is a great example of partner agencies working together to disrupt transnational organised crime groups who are attempting to profit from a drug that would cause significant harm in our communities.

Police will continue to work with Customs and international partners to actively target those who choose to bring harmful drugs into New Zealand so we can seize it before it gets into our community,” said Detective Inspector Dene Begbie, Field Crime Manager, Criminal Investigations, Northland Police.

The man is charged with possession for supply of a class A drug, and faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.  Further charges are likely.