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Half a billion worth of meth seized

Thursday 16 June 2016 | Published in Regional

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NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand police initially said their 90 Mile Beach bust had seized 448kg of the drug, but later on Tuesday said they had found another 50kg in nearby sand dunes.

No value was given of the latest find, but the new find brings the total to 494kg, with a likely value of close to half a billion dollars.

The whopping haul outstrips the total amount of meth seized in New Zealand in the whole of 2015, and is worth almost half a billion dollars.

Police said forensic investigation of a Toyota Prado used by the culprits, in which police found a GPS device, provided them with a set of co-ordinates which lead police to sand dunes on the Hutakere region on 90 Mile Beach.

Digging in to the sand, they found another stash of bags full of the illicit drug.

The seizure outstrips the total combined amount of methamphetamine seized in New Zealand in 2015, which totalled 334kg – and has earned police praise from PM John Key.

Police first reported that one boat was found, however, on Tuesday afternoon a police spokeswoman confirmed a second boat was seized and was included in the investigation.

Police had information a Toyota Prado and a rental campervan were seen nearby with the drivers acting suspiciously, offering large amounts of cash to locals for assistance to launch boats off the beach.

Police forensic teams work on the second boat, much larger than the first that was seized.

A 31-year-old man and a 26-year-old man from Auckland were arrested and taken back to the Kaitaia Police Station.

Several hours later, an off-duty police officer spotted a campervan and called for backup.

Officers looked in the back of the campervan and saw what appeared to be multiple bags of methamphetamine.

Northland Police District Commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou said it was a great find for the young policeman .

“It was a great piece of cop work by a young copper who had already knocked off and was heading home when he saw the campervan, had a look at it, got involved and called for assistance.

The 19-year-old driver and the campervan were taken back to the Kaitaia Police Station, where a further search of the campervan found multiple suitcases and bags.

Inside the suitcases and bags were dozens of plastic zip-lock bags, containing methamphetamine.

“This is without a doubt, the largest ever seizure of methamphetamine in New Zealand, and what is so great about this is that it’s not only the result of hard work by the Northland Police, but it’s the result of information we got from the community,” Le Prou said.

“We received notification of several cases of suspicious behaviour in the past few weeks, and that has allowed us to get to this point.

“Wherever this methamphetamine was headed, it was going to cause harm, and it’s thanks to the Kaitaia community, who were not going to tolerate this, that we’ve managed to stop the harm from this massive haul of meth” Le Prou said.

The methamphetamine has since been removed from the Kaitaia Police Station and investigations were underway into where the methamphetamine had come from.

Many of the bags showed signs of exposure to salt water on the outside, leading police to believe a boat that’s been involved.

“The methamphetamine show signs of being in salt water, so that leads us to believe that’s possibly how it came onto shore.”

Those behind the massive haul of methamphetamine, worth nearly $500 million, were running a business the size of a top 50 company.

The value of the illicit drug comes close to Auckland International Airport’s revenue last year of $508.5 million.

An ongoing joint investigation involving with New Zealand’s Customs is underway into this aspect of the case.

Customs Investigations Manager Maurice O’Brien said Customs with continue to work with Police throughout the investigation, and will continue to do so to identify everyone involved and obtain all the relevant evidence.

Prime Minister John Key praised police for their work in capturing the “enormous haul”.

“I don’t want to speak for the police because they’ve been working on the operation for some time – but what it shows you is the extra resources and authority we’ve given them is allowing them to be successful, because this is the second very significant haul we’ve seen in recent times.”

Police Minister Judith Collins and Customs Minister Nicky Wagner congratulated the local community, Northland Police and Customs for the record-breaking methamphetamine seizure in Kaitaia yesterday.

“Police are deadly serious about cutting the supply of methamphetamine and bringing those who peddle this drug to account,” said Collins.

“I hope this seizure stands as an inspiration for those who have information about suspicious activities in our communities to report it to Police, and play a role in making all of our communities safer”.

- PNC sources