A Mexican national has been sentenced to 10 years and seven months in prison for his part in smuggling 113kg worth of methamphetamine into Auckland hidden in a shipment of avocado pulp.
New Zealand Customs said in a statement today that the seizure has stopped up to “$140 million of potential social harm to our communities”.
Victor Manuel Iglesias Martos, 37, was arrested on 10 April 2019 after customs officers examined 13 polystyrene boxes the day before, containing ice packets and sachets of avocado puree, and found these boxes had false bottom compartments.
The compartments hid eight packets of methamphetamine wrapped in brown packaging tape.
Martos arrived in New Zealand from Mexico via San Francisco on 7 April 2019, telling Customs officers he was here with family for a 15-day holiday.
"Customs investigations identified that in the previous months, he had been in contact with a Mexican-based freight forwarder, and they had negotiated with an Auckland-based fresh produce importer about importing avocado pulp into New Zealand," the statement said.
Investigations showed the fresh produce importer was not implicated in the smuggling operation.
Evidence also showed Martos had studied aspects of the avocado industry in Mexico, including taking several photos of avocado pulp production and bags of packaged avocado pulp.
A consignment of frozen avocado pulp was imported via airfreight from Mexico and addressed to a company in Auckland without any controlled drugs, as a trial run.
A second consignment of frozen avocado pulp was imported via airfreight from Mexico several days afterwards and sent to a different Auckland address.
"Customs officers carried out an examination of the 13 polystyrene boxes containing ice packets and sachets of avocado puree, and found these boxes had false bottom compartments.
"Those compartments hid eight packets of methamphetamine wrapped in brown packaging tape. Approximately 113 kilograms of methamphetamine was retrieved," the statement said.
Customs arrested Martos the next day, after he used a hired van to move some of the polystyrene boxes to an Auckland storage unit. He was charged with the importation and possession for supply of the class A controlled drug.
Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry says this methamphetamine seizure was one of the largest at the time.
“Martos and his associates went through a lot of effort to research the industry to try and beat authorities, but Customs’ own intelligence and partnership networks meant we were also working equally hard to stop them.
“These organised criminal groups have no regard for the social impact, health costs, and the associated harm that methamphetamine brings on our society. Customs remains dedicated to intercepting such shipments, both here and offshore, and preventing this harm from reaching our communities.” he says.
If you have suspicions about someone involved in importing illegal drugs call 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768) in confidence, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously.