Huge Drug Bust

“Operation Reach: Police, Customs squash drug importation plans, eleven arrested to date”
New Zealand authorities have yet again halted a significant criminal syndicate’s plans after intercepting 50 kilograms of cocaine from an imported shipment.

Under Operation Reach, a joint investigation between New Zealand Police and New Zealand Customs Service, the specialist teams identified a high-risk shipment arriving at the Port of Tauranga in early February. 

Enquiries to date indicate the shipment originated in Brazil and New Zealand was its intended destination.

Detective Inspector Tom Gollan, from Police’s National Organised Crime Group, says four men, aged between 22 and 36, were initially arrested following the discovery.

“Over the following weeks, enquiries into this serious offending have continued, which led to several search warrants being conducted throughout Tāmaki Makaurau and Tauranga and a further seven arrests made.”

Included in these arrests were two males, aged 50 and 59, who are both believed to be senior members of a well-known gang.

“During a further search warrant in the Counties Manukau District, a significant number of firearms, including three semi-automatics and two fully automatic rifles, were located and seized.

“A 50-year-old male was arrested at this address and was also found in possession of a loaded .22 calibre pistol,” Detective Inspector Gollan says.

On 20 February, Police executed a further two search warrants in properties in Tauranga.

Two more men, aged 33 and 37, and are also believed to be members of the same well-known gang, were arrested in relation to this alleged offending.

Inspector Gollan says Police observed extensive preparations being undertaken by the group to recover the cocaine.

“This included the purchase of walkie-talkie radios, an army “gillie” suit, bolt cutters, gloves, security branded t-shirts, and high-visibility gear.

“These methods, combined with the alleged possession of illegal firearms, demonstrates the lengths criminal enterprises are willing to go to avoid detection and import illicit drugs into New Zealand.

“Unfortunately for this group, Police, alongside our partner agencies, were five steps ahead.”

All eleven men are facing charges relating to the importation, conspiracy, and possession for supply of cocaine.

“Two of the men are also facing charges relating to the possession of firearms and Police are not ruling out further charges as more information comes to light,” Detective Inspector Gollan says.

They are all due to reappear in the Auckland District Court in due course.

Customs Investigations Manager Dominic Adams adds this was a complex investigation, with Customs and Police working together to target the criminal group.“Customs continues to screen 100% of all air and sea cargo shipments, taking a closer look at shipments that raise red flags.

This is another excellent example of our partnership approach with Police yielding great results.We also work closely with Ports and legitimate supply chain partners to help keep our borders safe and secure,” Mr Adams says.

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