Four men are due to appear in court this afternoon as police and customs speak with the media about a $20 million cocaine bust at the Port of Tauranga.
Two Australian men and a Croatian aged in their mid-forties, and one Serbian national in his mid-thirties were arrested after an estimated 46 kilograms of cocaine, with a street value of around NZ$20 million ($450 per gram), has been seized from an address in Tauranga early this morning.
Customs commenced the operation after an investigation into smaller methamphetamine seizures, resulting in several arrests, identified persons of interest believed to be involved in smuggling and distributing Class A drugs and money laundering.
Customs joined forces with Police to build intelligence and carry out investigative work, establishing that a cocaine shipment would be offloaded from a commercial ship near Tauranga.
The ship arrived from Chile late yesterday.
The four men arrested have been granted interim name suppression.
During their brief appearance in Tauranga Court this afternoon, the men were remanded in custody.
They are due to reappear in Tauranga Court tomorrow.
Cocaine seizure in Tauranga will reduce harm in our communities
The seizure of 46 kilograms of cocaine in Tauranga today following a joint operation between New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Customs Service will make a real difference in our communities and prevent further harm.
“Illegal drugs have no place in our communities. The great work of Police and Customs staff to stop these drugs entering the country and causing havoc is to be applauded.
“Based on the Drug Harm Index, the seizure has stopped $62 million of additional social harm to New Zealand communities.
“The termination of the operation and the resulting arrest of four foreign nationals shows the power of an all-of-Government approach, and how working together means our Government agencies can make a real difference.
“The drugs seized today will cause a significant dent in the supply of the drug across the country and also sends a strong message that New Zealand authorities are actively working to stop the importation of illegal drugs,” says Hon Stuart Nash Minister of Police.
Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri says this is excellent work by Customs and Police.
“This operation shows the importance of partnerships in protecting New Zealand through border security, and highlights the work our people do every day,” says Hon Meka Whaitiri.