Otautahi – A significant police operation has resulted in the seizure of more than 50 kilograms of cocaine, nine people arrested and $300,000 in cash, cocaine, and cryptocurrency wallets seized.
Police’s Operation Mist, one of the biggest projects ever, to seize the drugs and make arrests has seen 70 police and customs staff working with the US drug enforcement staff, Colombian police, Spanish Customs and the Cook Island Customs Service.
The 10 month operation targeting the importation, sale and supply of cocaine and associated money laundering activities is the result of following drug dealers operating in New Zealand for about two years. It is a major success and positive result for NZ police.
Yesterday eight people, including six Colombian nationals and one Argentinian national, were arrested following six search warrants in Canterbury. Another person was arrested following three search warrants in Auckland.
More than 60 charges have been filed relating to cocaine importation and supply, participating in an organised criminal group, and money laundering.
The two people arrested yesterday have appeared in the Christchurch District Court, and the remainder are appearing today. Further arrests are expected.
Police say Operation Mist has delivered a massive blow to an organised crime syndicate operating in Christchurch and overseas, who are considered to be one of the significant suppliers of cocaine into New Zealand.
Based on wastewater data we believe this group was supplying the majority of cocaine into New Zealand.
Five of the Christchurch-based Colombian nationals arrested were working as contractors on farms in Canterbury.
It will be alleged that this group has money laundered at least $600,000. Police seized about $300,000 in cash, three ounces of cocaine and a number of cryptocurrency wallets, one of which contains $70,000.
New Zealand is one part of the illicit supply chain and it is through expanding law enforcement networks that police and other agencies can have a lasting disruptive effect on organised crime.
The trafficking of cocaine into New Zealand by South American cartels will be detected, and Operation Mist will serve as a warning to criminals attempting to bring drugs into Aotearoa.