Customs seizes record-setting $240m worth of meth in Auckland shipping container

Customs has seized an estimated 469 kilograms of methamphetamine, the largest ever seizure at New Zealand's border.

It's estimated the haul has a street value of $240 million.

Customs investigations manager Bruce Berry said the meth was hidden inside a shipment of electric motors at Ports of Auckland.

He said two Canadians and a New Zealand national would appear in the Auckland District Court today over the bust. Further arrests are likely.

The three face charges for the importation and possession of a class A controlled drug, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

In their first appearances this afternoon in the Auckland District Court, all three co-accused were remanded in custody without plea until their next appearance on September 27.

All three men were granted interim name suppression.

Both customs and police staff led a joint investigation to gather evidence that led to the arrests. 

"Customs started the investigation into the largest boarder seizure by customs of methamphetamine in June this year," Mr Berry said.

The shipping container held 60 electric motors, and each motor hid an average of around eight kilograms of methamphetamine. Source: New Zealand Customs Service.

"Some good intelligence units identified some persons of interest that were in country, we believe, solely for the purpose of receiving and distributing this drug shipment.

"These inquiries linked us directly to a company established to facilitate the importation of large quantities of controlled drugs."

In mid-August a shipment of electric motors was intercepted by customs coming in from Thailand. Concealed within the electric motors was a total of 469 kilograms of methamphetamine. The recent seizure amounted more than a tonne of the drug stopped at New Zealand boarders this year, and a further 200 kilograms with international partners.

Each of the 60 motors had about eight kilograms of meth concealed in the internal working of the motor in what Mr Berry described as “an extremely sophisticated and complex importation by an organised criminal syndicate”.

Source: New Zealand Customs Service.

Last night and this morning, around 65 customs and police staff executed a series of search warrants across Auckland finding another 15 kilograms of methamphetamine, a hand gun and a large quantity of cash.

“It’s a known international trend for overseas nationals to come into the country just to receive and distribute drug shipments," he said. "They use storage units or commercial premises and hire homes on Airbnb as part of their illegal activity.

“This seizure has disrupted a significant amount of drugs from reaching communities, and has deprived organised crime groups of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of profits.

“Customs will continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies here and offshore, as well as industry partners, individuals and businesses, to target shipments and syndicates.

“We urge storage units, commercial premises, and Airbnb operators to be alert so they don’t unwittingly become involved in criminal activity. If it seems suspicious, call 0800 4 CUSTOMS in confidence,” Mr Berry says.

Sixty motors, each containing an average of eight kg of methamphetamine were found inside a shipping container. Source: New Zealand Customs Service

Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said the seizure equated to 22 and 26 weeks of supply to the country.

“This is money drawn out of vulnerable communities affected by meth addiction across our community that would’ve gone into the pockets of gangs and trans-national, international syndicates.

“If it had gotten out into the community it would have generated about $600 million in social harm based on the drug harm index. So it is significant that this harm has been stopped getting out to those communities.”

Police, customs and other key agencies were working to better understand how overseas syndicates work to better stop them, he said.

He also gave credit to the “outstanding work” of those involved in this bust.

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Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry and Detective Superintendent Greg Williams fronted media. Source: 1 NEWS