Methamphetamine drug courier jailed in Customs-led case
02.43pm 24 May 2023 | News
The 28-year-old man Customs identified as the key organiser in an attempt to smuggle methamphetamine from the United States of America in a suitcase during the middle of COVID-19 lockdown has today been jailed for seven years and three months.
Customs officers stopped Romney Fukofuka at Auckland International Airport in May 2020 and caught him with 19.4 kilograms of methamphetamine in his carry-on suitcase.
National Drug Intelligence Bureau estimates indicated this amount of methamphetamine could have been worth between around NZD$7.8 million and NZD$11.6 million on the street at the time. It could have produced nearly one million doses of the drug to be smoked, which is the most common way it is consumed. The seizure has prevented up to $21.5 million of potential social harm.
Customs began Operation Santana in April 2020, and uncovered solid evidence including encrypted phone messaging, swipe card data, and CCTV footage that linked Fukofuka’s involvement with four ‘trusted insider’ baggage handlers who were meant to take the bag.
Customs Investigations Manager Cam Moore says today’s result is the culmination of a lot of hard-work, intelligence gathering and thorough investigations, which put the spotlight on a criminal enterprise, long before they knew authorities were onto them.
“Customs is well-aware of ongoing efforts by organised crime groups to tempt, bribe or even coerce people working at border entry points and in New Zealand’s supply chain. These criminals aren’t interested in the people they exploit, only the profits they can make from targeting our communities,” Cam Moore said.
“Our message is clear – Don’t do it. Organised criminal groups don’t care about what happens to you or your families - it’s not worth the risk or repercussions.”
Customs acknowledges valuable assistance from the Police National Organised Crime Group (NOCG), as well as the critical help provided by US Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations to bring Operation Santana to a successful conclusion.
Evidence gained from Customs and Police joint investigations into Operation Santana contributed to another joint investigation, Operation Selena, which saw at least 25 people arrested, including a number of baggage handlers, along with millions of dollars in assets seized, including two Auckland properties, a number of vehicles, and large sums of cash.