Police and Customs seize 140 kgs of Cocaine worth $63 million


A part of the $63 million Cocaine haul (New Zealand Police Photo from Facebook)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, October 30, 2023

Operation Blanco, undertaken jointly by the Police and Customs disrupted 140 kilograms of cocaine valued at around $63 million bound for New Zealand shores after the seizure at the Port of Auckland on October 26, 2023.

The Operation led to the arrest of four men.

Disturbing trend

The investigation identified the concerning trend of organised crime groups aggressively targeting and attempting to ‘rip’ or take possession of imported drugs while they are transiting through ports or other associated facilities.

This method is seen in overseas jurisdictions and is happening more in New Zealand.

The haul was found concealed within a cavity of a container, which is understood to have originated in Ecuador and travelled through Panama to its final destination of New Zealand.

Detective Inspector Tom Gollan from the Police National Organised Crime Group said, “Three of the men were deported back to New Zealand in July and August 2023, and a fourth man is an Australian National who recently entered New Zealand as a visitor.”

The chilling discovery of a pistol with a silencer attached (New Zealand Police Photo from Facebook)

The Operation

Search warrants used during the investigation led to the recovery of a drone that the group used for surveillance. The investigating officers also located newly purchased angle grinders and equipment used to recover the drugs in the container.

“What was particularly chilling was the discovery of a pistol with a silencer attached, and ammunition, which was found in possession of one of these men. These organised crime groups try all sorts of concealment methods to attempt to beat law enforcement authorities. This investigation highlights the extreme lengths to which this organised criminal enterprise went to try and avoid detection,” Detective Inspector Gollan said.

All four men appeared in the Auckland District Court facing charges relating to the importation of cocaine, firearm offences, and participating in an organised crime group.

Community relieved

Police believe that the haul of 140 kgs of cocaine was destined for the New Zealand market with a street value of $63 million. The seizure has prevented 1.4 million doses of cocaine from getting into the community and hence safeguarded the vulnerable and at-risk groups.

As the matter is now before the court, Police and Customs were unable to comment further but Acting Customs Investigations Manager Simon Peterson said that the seizure is just one example of what Customs and its partners are dealing with on a regular basis.

He said, “It further demonstrates the constant threat that we face at New Zealand’s border from well-funded, sophisticated, and determined transnational organised crime groups. The success in bringing down this smuggling attempt also shows Customs’ commitment and determination, working alongside our Police partners and offshore and industry partners, to disrupt this predatory criminal activity, hit the profits these gangs aim to make from exploiting our communities and play our part in reducing the wide-ranging social harm drugs they cause in our communities.”

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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