Tāmaki Makaurau – Police have arrested seven people and seized $38 million dollars’ worth of drugs in a major operation targeting the importation of cocaine into New Zealand.
Operation Depot has been a month long joint investigation into an Auckland drug syndicate, which is alleged to have imported at least 190kg of cocaine into the country.
The investigation, run by police’s national organised crime group and New Zealand customs, focused on disrupting this illegal activity.
Search warrants were executed across a number of properties in Tāmaki Makaurau this week, where police made the discovery.
Investigators located a large quantity of cocaine at a commercial address in New Lynn, alleged to have been extracted from a partially deconstructed piece of heavy machinery, which had recently been imported into the country.
The heavy machinery, a boiler, was imported out of Ecuador with 190kg allegedly concealed inside.
Enquiries are being conducted, including involving the further deconstruction of the boiler, to establish the total amount concealed.
Seven people, aged between 21 and 37, have been arrested and are facing multiple charges relating to the importation and possession for supply of cocaine, as well as participating in an organised criminal group.
Four people are due to appear in the Auckland District Court today. Three have already appeared in the Auckland District Court and are expected to reappear in the coming months.
National organised crime group’s detective inspector Paul Newman says this seizure is a significant find for both agencies.
“Organised crime groups are investing increasingly large amounts of money and resources to conceal drugs as they come across the border.”
Detective Inspector Newman says organised criminal groups look to exploit weaknesses in our systems and this result further demonstrates police and New Zealand customs are well aligned to respond to this threat.
“This was a very sophisticated method of concealment with excellent collaboration of border authorities, which was key to identifying and flagging this import as suspicious.”
Customs investigations manager, Cam Moore, praised the cooperation between customs, police and the national organised crime group.
“This has been a complex and methodical collaboration of our agencies to break-up a significant criminal operation and stop what we believe could have been a substantial amount of harm in our communities,” Moore said.
This investigation remains ongoing and at this stage, police will not rule out the possibility of further seizures and arrests.