New Zealand Police and Customs have captured their largest ever cocaine seizure, after 190kgs of the illicit drug was found in a container of bananas in Auckland, New Zealand Police and Customs said in a joint statement today.
A 41-year-old has been arrested in Australia following a joint investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) into an Australia-based organised crime group identified a potential shipment of the drugs which left Balboa, in Panama, on August 4.
The container, listed as a shipment of bananas, arrived in Auckland on August 20.
The discovery was made after New Zealand Customs and police inspected the container and found five duffel bags on top of the banana boxes.
Inside were 190 blocks of cocaine, weighing around 1kg each, wrapped in packaging tape.
Police say the record seizure has a street value between $28 and $36 million.
New Zealand Police and Customs assisted in the AFP-ACIC investigation, which concluded after an arrest was made within the last 24 hours.
Detective Inspector Paul Newman, National Organised Crime Group, said the seizure is extremely significant for both countries.
"This operation has once again shown our dedication to disrupting organised crime and reducing the devastating harm that drugs cause in our community," Detective Inspector Newman said.
"The cooperation of both law enforcement and intelligence groups during this investigation has been central to its success in targeting transnational crime."
Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry said the seizure and arrest highlights the strong partnership between the two countries' agencies and the protection of each other's borders.
"This joint trans-Tasman approach is an important part of Customs' strategy to keep harm offshore, and shows how New Zealand is playing its part internationally through the use of our intelligence and targeting to successfully identify risk," Mr Berry said.
Targeting transnational organised crime is a priority for the Government- Police Minister Stuart Nash
Police Minister Stuart Nash said the cocaine seizure demonstrates the strength of partnership between Australian and New Zealand law enforcement agencies in preventing the harm drugs cause in our communities.
Targeting transnational organised crime is a priority for the Government, he added.
“The Government’s unprecedented investment in police in Budget 2018 supports the deployment of 500 extra police officers to disrupt, deter and dismantle organised criminal networks and reduce harm in our communities. The Budget also funded 127 extra Customs staff," the minister said.
“Drugs like cocaine cause harm and fuel organised crime networks. I would like to congratulate Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police and New Zealand Customs staff for their great work in preventing these drugs reaching their destination.
“This operation highlights the key role New Zealand plays internationally in disrupting transnational criminal networks."
Customs Minister Kris Faafoi said he was pleased to see the focus on consignments transshipping through New Zealand had been effective.
“This is a good example of what we can achieve when police, border and overseas agencies work together.”
Anyone who would like to report illegal drug activity can contact their nearest police station or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.