A joint operation between the Organised Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ) and other agencies has busted a methamphetamine importing syndicate in New Zealand and Canada and shut a number of cannabis growing houses on Auckland’s North Shore.
Operation Express began in December 2012 involving staff from OFCANZ, New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Customs Service working in partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other Canadian authorities.
Five search warrants were executed at various addresses in Auckland today with further warrants executed in Vancouver by Canadian authorities.
Today’s operation follows the execution of 14 warrants in Auckland last week where 5 fully operational grow houses were located and 10 people were arrested.
Those arrested last week are Vietnamese – 7 male and 3 female – aged between 18 and 34.
The investigation began after Canadian authorities seized two separate shipments of methamphetamine totalling 6.6kg in December 2012. This was concealed in a consignment of truck shock absorbers and destined for New Zealand. The methamphetamine has an estimated street value of NZ$7 million.
A joint operation was launched involving OFCANZ, NZ Customs and Canadian authorities in Vancouver which identified members of the syndicate in Canada and New Zealand.
The investigation also established that the syndicate was involved in the large scale cultivation of cannabis in a number of houses allegedly rented for that purpose, mainly on Auckland’s North Shore.
Over 600 fully developed cannabis plants were seized in last week’s operation together with an ounce of methamphetamine and approx NZ$90,000 in cash.
Two of those arrested last week are now also charged with conspiracy to import methamphetamine and importing methamphetamine. A further person has been arrested today and also charged in respect to the two failed importations seized in Canada and an additional three previous importations into New Zealand. In total 11 people have been arrested – one a patched gang member.
Detective Inspector Bruce Good of OFCANZ is very pleased with the operation:
“This investigation involved close liaison between NZ Customs and Canadian authorites, with further assistance being provided by Immigration New Zealand.”
He says: “This has been another success for OFCANZ, Police and NZ Customs. It demonstrates our ability to co-operate extremely well at home as well as with overseas enforcement agencies. It sends a clear message to those attempting to bring drugs across the border that they will be apprehended”
“I am particularly concerned about the safety issues we discovered at these grow houses and we’ve been working with electrical professionals in the termination phase of this operation.”
Mr Good says all of these properties had been modified internally without the consent of owners or agents and, more significantly, the electrical supply to the houses had been tampered with.
“We’ve been dealing with live wires hanging loose, connections to the mains supply by-passed and houses left without any earthing mechanism. This type of tampering is potentially life threatening through the risk of either electric shock or fire”
“I urge all landlords to do regular, thorough checks on their properties to reduce such a risk.” said Mr Good.
Police video taken inside one of the alleged grow houses can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/KiuDF41Y-LE
Still pictures are available on the Police website: www.police.govt.nz