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Seven arrested for smuggling over 100 kg of meth

01.24pm 28 September 2017 | News

A Customs and Police investigation has resulted in the arrest of seven overseas nationals for the attempted import of at least 100-120 kg of meth disguised as concrete inside the base of outdoor umbrella stands.

In August 2017, Customs’ intelligence flagged a 1.4 tonne sea freight consignment from China declared as ‘outdoor leisure products’ - swings, slides, a furniture set, and garden lights. Extensive examination revealed methamphetamine mixed with gypsum hidden in 16 concrete outdoor umbrella stands.

The extracted methamphetamine’s purity is still to be finalised, and is estimated to be at least between 100-120 kgs with a street value of around $100-120 M. Based on the NZ Drug Harm Index, this amount has avoided a potential social and community harm cost of between $124 - 148 M.

The shipment was linked to a company believed to have been set up solely to smuggle drugs. A subsequent joint investigation led to several search warrants being carried out in Auckland in the past week, where further evidence linking those arrested was found.

Six men and one woman, aged between 36 – 65 years, face charges for the importation and possession for supply of a Class A controlled drug, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry says superb targeting and inspections work has uncovered this new way to disguise meth, and the investigation has exposed how some syndicates operate.

“This type of concealment is difficult to detect, and the combination of good investigative tradecraft informed by effective analysis by ESR directly led to this result.

“The syndicate was operating in a very ‘compartmentalised’ way - using different groups of people to receive the meth, extract it, and then have it ready for pickup in an effort to defeat any law enforcement response.

“Transnational criminal syndicates are finding more sophisticated ways to operate and disguise drugs, but Customs and our partners Police are alert to this, continually developing new techniques and technologies to target and stop them,” says Mr Berry.

Detective Superintendent Greg Williams from the Police National Organised Crime Group said that there was excellent cooperation between Customs and Police who worked closely monitoring the movements of the container. Investigators then patiently watched the activity around the consignment until they had sufficient evidence to swoop on the targets”.

“This is a significant seizure which would have had the street value of many millions of dollars while causing an equal amount of social harm. We will continue to target and catch those responsible for attempting to profit from this type of transnational organised crime,” said Detective Superintendent Williams.