New Zealander, Canadian jailed for over combined 37 years after biggest ever meth seizure at Aotearoa's border

A New Zealander and Canadian have today been jailed for over 37 years between them after the biggest ever methamphetamine seizure at Aotearoa’s border.

Bag of meth found inside electric motor. Source: Supplied

Canadian The Hoang Thai, 25, was sentenced to 20 years and six months imprisonment while New Zealander Isaiah Te Hira, 32, was sentenced to 16 years and nine months.

Their sentences come after they were arrested in September 2019 following a Customs seizure of 469 kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in a shipment of electrical motors from Thailand.

Electric motors being examined by Customs. Source: Supplied

Another Canadian, 26-year-old Harpeet Lidder, was convicted and sentenced to nine years and three months’ imprisonment last July after being arrested the previous September with a further 15 kilograms of methamphetamine and two kilograms of MDMA found at his house upon arrest.

The Customs-led investigation into a criminal syndicate that was looking to expand its network into New Zealand also resulted in a fourth man, a New Zealander, being arrested in 2019, but he was found not guilty in the Auckland High Court this February.

The investigation, Operation Manta, identified a number of people or "shore parties," who travelled to NZ for the purpose of receiving and distributing drug shipments. They had also set up a pseudo company to facilitate this, Customs investigations manager Bruce Berry said.

“This was a sophisticated and organised attempt to bring a large quantity of methamphetamine into the domestic drug market, and the scale of the seizure reflects the attractiveness of New Zealand to these transnational organised crime groups.”

“International syndicates are always looking for opportunities to expand their market share globally - at the expense of our communities - but domestic and international law enforcement agencies are equally joined up to help combat these types of illegal activities.”

Berry said New Zealand authorities had also received assistance from their counterparts in Thailand and Australia to understand the syndicate’s international operations.

“Customs and Police, along with our international partners, will continue to work closely together to penetrate and disrupt such illicit supply chains in New Zealand and off-shore.”