Busted! NZ surveillance aircraft helps stop drug traffickers peddling $400m of heroin

The New Zealand Defence Force has played a key role in a huge drug bust in the Indian Ocean, bringing the total amount of illegal drugs it has helped seize to a figure of around $400 million in two weeks.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion surveillance aircraft provided information on a suspect vessel it spotted while patrolling the Indian Ocean.

Working on the Orion's tip-off, the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Arunta intercepted the vessel off the coast of Tanzania on Wednesday, where crew members found a stash of 250 kilograms of heroin.

The leader of the NZDF's maritime security operations in the Middle East, Wing Commander DJ Hunt, said "This is a fantastic result for the team".

"It highlights the NZDF's significant contribution to the multi-national effort to stop narcotics smuggling and disrupting funding lines for terrorist organisations," he said.

Members of HMAS Arunta's boarding party account for seized illegal narcotics found during the search of a dhow while on patrol in the Middle East Region.
The New Zealand Defence Force have successfully seized about $400 million worth of illegal drugs in the past two weeks. Source: The New Zealand Defence Force

"To facilitate three major drug seizures from suspect vessels that we located and in such a short timeframe is a great testament to the investment made in training and operating an airborne surveillance and reconnaissance force."

The successful bust comes after earlier in the month, the Orion located two vessels in the Indian Ocean which were trafficking 400 kilograms of heroin worth about $220 million.

With the later bust, the figure of illegal drugs seized in the past two weeks comes to around $400m, the Defence Force said.

The NZDF sent an Orion and a supporting detachment to the Middle East in February to work as part of the Combined Maritime Forces over the next 12 months.

Their last deployment in support of the CMF helped in intercepting vessels attempting to smuggle drugs worth nearly $500 million during a 16-month period to December 2015.

The CMF is a 31-nation naval partnership that promotes maritime security and seeks to defeat terrorism and prevent piracy and the trafficking of people and drugs across 8.2 million square kilometres of international waters.

The New Zealand Defence Force intercepted a vessel off the coast of Tanzania on Wednesday and found a stash of 250 kilograms of heroin. Source: The New Zealand Defence Force

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