Operation Brewer: Joint Police and Customs investigation sees gangs’ importation plans quashed; nine charged and methamphetamine seized
10.11am 29 September 2023 | News
More than 70 million dollars’ worth of methamphetamine has been withheld from entering New Zealand, and nine men have been arrested and charged, as a result of a joint Police and Customs investigation.
The significant stash of just under 200 kilograms of methamphetamine, which is estimated to produce roughly 10 million doses, was seized by the New Zealand Customs Service at the Ports of Auckland after it was found concealed within four wheat thresher machines imported into the country.
While the origin of the importation is still under investigation, enquiries to date have determined it has been transhipped to New Zealand from Dubai.
Detective Inspector Tom Gollan, from Police’s National Organised Crime Group, says it was a sophisticated concealment method.
“This highlights the extreme lengths criminal enterprises will go to to avoid detection.
“Police believe this haul of methamphetamine was destined for the New Zealand market and if it had not been intercepted it would have resulted in more than $200 million dollars’ worth of social harm caused across a lot of very vulnerable communities.”
As part of the investigation, under Operation Brewer, the thresher machines were delivered to a rural property in Patumahoe on 4 July 2023, and a search warrant was subsequently executed by Police and Customs at the address.
“Four men, aged between 18 and 28, were taken into custody at the property,” Detective Inspector Gollan says.
“The group were arrested as they were dismantling the threshing machines to access the methamphetamine.”
A series of five further search warrants were executed across Tāmaki Makaurau in the following days, which saw an additional two men, aged 27 and 36 years old, arrested in connection with the import.
All six men have appeared in the Auckland District Court and are facing charges relating to the importation and possession for supply of methamphetamine, and participating in an organised crime group.
A number of the men also face charges in relation to the supply of MDMA and cocaine, as well as the possession of a firearm.
They have all plead not guilty and are due to reappear in the coming months.
“Further enquiries and outstanding investigation work by National Organised Crime Group detectives and partners identified a further three men, who are alleged to be the organisers and facilitators of the import,” Detective Inspector Gollan says.
“As a result, three senior Comanchero gang members have been charged with their alleged involvement in this importation.
The three men, aged between 27 and 36 years old, will appear in the Auckland District Court via audio-visual link today, Friday 29 September.
“This is another superb example of the collaborative partnerships within New Zealand and overseas to identify and arrest the people involved in importing this substantial amount of methamphetamine,” Detective Inspector Gollan says.
“The social harm this amount of methamphetamine could have caused to the community is significant, and we are very pleased with the seizure and arrest of the men involved.”
Customs Investigations Manager, Cam Moore, says this once again reinforces the strength and value of Customs’ great working relationship with New Zealand Police to disrupt the drug smuggling efforts of transnational organised crime groups who target our Motu, our communities and our whānau.
“Criminals need to be aware that Customs is working tirelessly with key partners, both domestic and international, to identify and intercept risk shipments and prevent significant harm from occurring. Customs are experts at what we do and combining our expertise with that of Police allows us to identify and hold to account those who choose to deal in this abhorrent behaviour.”