NINE people have been charged after New Zealand authorities intercepted almost 200 kilograms of methamphetamine at the ports of Auckland.
NZ Customs Service seized the drugs from inside four wheat thresher machines imported into the country.
Police and customs are still investigating the origin of the consignment, but enquiries to date have determined it was transhipped to New Zealand from Dubai.
A joint investigation between police and customs saw the machines delivered to a rural property in the Auckland town of Patumahoe on 4 July 2023.
Authorities searched the property and took four men aged between 18 and 28 into custody. The men were arrested as they dismantled the machines to access the drugs.
Detective Inspector Tom Gollan from New Zealand Police’s National Organised Crime Group said it was a sophisticated concealment method.
“This highlights the extreme lengths criminal enterprises will go to to avoid detection,” Detective Inspector Gollan said.
“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.”
Customs investigations manager Cam Moore said criminals need to be aware that customs is working with key partners domestically and internationally to identify and intercept risk shipments.
“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.”
Five further search warrants executed in the days that followed saw 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.
And further enquiries and outstanding investigation work by National Organised Crime Group detectives and partners identified a further three men who are believed to be the organisers and facilitators of the import.
Three senior members of the Comanchero gang were charged over alleged involvement in the importation.
The three men, aged between 27 and 36 years old, were due to appear in the Auckland District Court on 29 September.
New Zealand Customs estimates the haul was valued at $70 million and could have produced around 10 million doses of meth.