Source: New Zealand Police (District News)
Police and Customs have this week dismantled a sophisticated drug dealing and smuggling operation making 12 arrests and seizing $8 million worth of drugs in the process.
Police and Customs have executed 11 search warrants in relation to Operation Freya— a six-month-long investigation led by the newly established Northland District Police Organised Crime Unit.
The operation was set up to investigate the smuggling of drugs from international destinations, including Africa, and the subsequent sale and supply in New Zealand. It stems from seizure information that Customs regularly shares with Police, which showed that a number of drug packages were destined for Northland.
Between March 2020 – June 2021, Customs intercepted 15 separate air cargo or mail consignments, the drugs were found hidden in a range of concealments such as books, clothing and framed art.
Search warrants took place across Northland including Morningside, Rāwhiti, Ruakākā and Whananaki, as well as Rotorua.
Eleven men aged between 27 and 56, and a 25-year-old woman have been arrested so far.
They are set to face a raft of serious drugs charges relating to the importation, manufacturing, and supply of methamphetamine.
Other charges include conspiring to import methamphetamine, MDMA and pseudoephedrine, as well as participating in an organised crime group.
Overall 17kg of methamphetamine, 5.44kg of MDMA and a kg of pseudoephedrine were seized, which are worth a combined value of $8m in street value.
Those charged are set to appear in Whangārei District Court tomorrow, on 13 November. Further arrests cannot be ruled out at this stage.
Police have also restrained around $240,000 worth of assets, including a motorbike, boat and vehicles, under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act.
Around $70,000 in cash, and a quantity of methamphetamine along with two firearms and ammunition were also seized.
Detective Inspector Bridget Doell says the investigation identified an alleged criminal syndicate based in Ruakākā, whose key leaders were in the Headhunters Motorcycle Gang and Mongrel Mob organised criminal group.
“The syndicate’s offending spread across New Zealand and those arrested today were allegedly involved in a variety of roles and levels of culpability across this syndicate.
“Ultimately, they have allegedly tried to import, manufacture or on-sell drugs into the Northland market, which currently has some of the highest drug use per capita wastewater readings in New Zealand.”
Detective Inspector Doell says closing this operation down, has prevented approximately $25 million worth of social harm across the Northland district
“Methamphetamine use is unfortunately a major driver of crime across the Northland District. Drug users are known to commit high volume crimes – such as car thefts, burglaries, and fraud – in a bid to fund their drug habits.
“Criminal groups hurt communities by exploiting people’s drug addictions – profiting as they did so. They have little regard for the devastation or harm caused to vulnerable people in our community who are addicted to drugs.
“Having a relative, friend, or neighbour who is addicted to methamphetamine doesn’t just affect them, it affects everyone around them, and the impact is significant.”
Customs Group Manager Intelligence, Investigations & Enforcement Dana McDonald says Customs continues to working closely with law enforcement partners globally to disrupt the transnational movement and supply of controlled drugs, and the harm this causes within our communities.
“Organised criminal groups may think that law enforcement doesn’t care about small drug packages – but it all adds up, and it’s only matter of time before they are held to account. In this case, we are pleased to have worked with Police to share our specialist capabilities and expertise to do just this.
“Customs actively targets all risk shipments – via sea, air or mail – and is determined to work with our partners, both here and offshore, to make maximum impact in dismantling the organised criminal groups that are involved,” Mr McDonald says.
Police enforcement ultimately disrupts and reduces the distribution of harmful drugs that our younger generation use.
“Police will continue to target those who illegally accumulate assets and wealth through the sale of illicit drugs,” says Detective Inspector Doell.
“We want to help build resilient communities that thrive in the absence of illicit drugs and drug-related offending.”
Detective Inspector Doell says the future focus for the district is to encourage communities to come forward and seek assistance from agencies if they have family members, loved ones involved in drug use, and criminal activities.
Police encourage anyone with information about suspected drug dealing in their community to contact 105, or Crime Stoppers anonymously via 0800 555 111.
Issued by Police Media Centre