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New Zealand hub of the Pacific Transnational Crime Network confirmed to continue vital work

12.40pm 03 November 2022 | News

Senior representatives of the New Zealand Transnational Crime Unit (NZTCU) and its partner agencies, including Australian and Pacific Island partners, gathered in Auckland today to mark the official confirmation that the NZTCU will continue its operations with Pacific partners.

“The NZTCU is pleased to be confirmed as an ongoing part of the Pacific’s regional crime fighting strategy to combat and disrupt organised crime groups’ activities in our part of the world,” Aaron Holloway, NZTCU Manager said.

The NZTCU is part of a multi-agency partnership sharing investigative and intelligence capability to combat transnational crime in the Pacific.

It was established as a pilot programme in early 2019 to add New Zealand resources and expertise to Pacific nations’ fight against transnational criminal activity in the region.

“Since its establishment, the NZTCU has played an important role in the gathering and sharing of intelligence on transnational criminal activities in our region with partner agencies across the Pacific,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.

“NZTCU’s ongoing membership of the Pacific Transnational Crime Network (PTCN) means we are able to draw on the skills, expertise and local knowledge of a wide range of partner agencies, as well being able to support and develop the resources, training and capacity of those partners,”

Samoa Police Commissioner Auapa’au Logoitino Filipo, who is also the current chair of the PTCN, attended the ceremony in Auckland marking confirmation of the NZTCU’s ongoing work, said the decision was welcome news.

“It is fitting we celebrate this decision today as the PTCN celebrates 20 years of operations. 20 years is a major milestone for the vital work our investigations and law enforcement network carries out across the Pacific.

“Working together as one for a safer Pacific is the fundamental vision of our Pacific Transnational Crime Network, and it is reassuring to know we have Aotearoa New Zealand’s ongoing commitment to support that vision,” Auapa’au Logoitino Filipo said.

The NZTCU proved its worth at the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when the NZTCU was able to put measures in place and quickly alert border and health officials about travellers breaching COVID isolation requirements and trying to travel to Pacific Island countries.

Where travellers were able to leave New Zealand during the virus incubation period, NZTCU’s extensive contacts network through Customs and Immigration meant health agencies in Pacific Island countries were able to intercept and quarantine the travellers on arrival.

The NZTCU received a World Customs Organisation award for the COVID-19 measures. The WCO described the unit’s efforts as outstanding work to preserve lives in the Pacific during the pandemic.

NZ Customs Deputy Comptroller, Bill Perry, said the decision to continue the NZTCU’s work demonstrates the value of a multi-agency approach to strengthening intelligence and information sharing, as well as the support it provides for Pacific border agencies to combat transnational organised crime in the region.

“We know transnational organised criminal activity has increased in this region. By working with our partners in the PTCN, and with Police, Immigration NZ, and Corrections, we are able to draw on a wide network of information gathering providing good intelligence to target law enforcement activity and cause the most damage to these organised crime groups that are exploiting our region,” Bill Perry said.

NZTCU Manager Aaron Holloway also pointed to the work the unit has done to improve information sharing with Pacific Island partners about criminal deportees being relocated from New Zealand.

“The NZTCU’s work provides Pacific Island authorities with more comprehensive and timely information which allows the Pacific countries receiving deportees to prepare for their arrival and support them.