National | Crime

Eleven arrested after authorities intercepted 50kg of cocaine

More than 50kg of cocaine was intercepted after a joint operation saw New Zealand Police and New Zealand Customs Service identify a high-risk shipment coming from Brazil.

It was meant to arrive at the Port of Tauranga in early February.

Under Operation Reach, four men aged between 22 and 36 were arrested during the discovery of the drugs.

Detective Inspector Tom Gollan said the case was still being investigated.

“Over the following weeks, enquiries into this serious offending have continued, which led to several search warrants being conducted throughout Tāmaki Makaurau and Tauranga and a further seven arrests made.”

Among these arrests were two senior members of a “well-known” gang, aged 50 and 59.

Police declined to name the gang, just emphasising that it was “well-known”.

During a further search warrant in the Counties Manukau District, a “significant number” of firearms, including three semi-automatics and two fully automatic rifles, were located and seized, police said.

“A 50-year-old male was arrested at this address and was also found in possession of a loaded .22 calibre pistol,” Gollan said.

A further two search warrants on properties in Tauranga on February 20 were executed. Two men, aged 33 and 37, were arrested. The men are believed to be in the same gang.

Police had observed the preparations being undertaken by the group to recover the cocaine. The group had allegedly bought walkie-talkie radios, an army “gillie” suit, bolt cutters, gloves, security-branded t-shirts, and high-visibility gear.

Gollan said the gear and the alleged possession of illegal firearms, demonstrated the lengths criminal enterprises were willing to do to avoid detection and import illicit drugs.

“Unfortunately for this group, police, alongside our partner agencies, were five steps ahead.”

All 11 men are facing charges relating to the importation, conspiracy, and possession for supply of cocaine.

More charges to come

“Two of the men are also facing charges relating to the possession of firearms and police are not ruling out further charges as more information comes to light,” Detective Inspector Gollan says.

Customs investigations manager Dominic Adams said it was a complex investigation.

“Customs continues to screen 100% of all air and sea cargo shipments, taking a closer look at shipments that raise red flags.

“We also work closely with ports and legitimate supply chain partners to help keep our borders safe and secure,” Adams said.

All 11 arrested are due to reappear in the Auckland District Court.