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Russians jailed for smuggling $2.1M ecstasy

04.54pm 28 February 2018 | News

Two Russian nationals from Israel will each spend five years and nine months behind New Zealand bars for trying to smuggle $2.1 M worth of MDMA or ecstasy in a suitcase last year.

Vladimir Turovsky, a 33-year-old dive shop owner, and Vadim Shkolnitski, a 36-year-old truck driver, were both sentenced in the Christchurch District Court today for trying to smuggle the Class B drug.

They arrived at Christchurch International Airport on a flight from Europe via Singapore last April. Customs officers at the airport used intelligence to link the two together and a search located 5 kg of MDMA hidden below the lining of a suitcase.

A 32-year-old Ukrainian woman accompanying them was also arrested at the time, but charges were recently dropped. She has since returned home to her family in Israel.

Manager Central and Southern Ports, Joe Cannon says this case is another example of Customs intelligence and frontline expertise stopping smugglers at the border.

"Regardless of the country they're coming from, the airport or port they arrive at, or the type of drugs they are carrying, Customs keeps close watch and is alert to risks.

"Criminals might think Customs' focus is on catching drug couriers at Auckland Airport, but we're just as vigilant in Christchurch. Today's sentencing wraps up some great work by officers involved in pre-screening, and those working at the airport and in Investigations."

Customs made 19 drug-related arrests at our international airports last year, including eight arrests for a total of 13.6 kg ecstasy.