Arrest made in 1080 blackmail threat

Arrest made in 1080 blackmail threat

A man arrested and charged following a blackmail threat to put 1080 poison in infant formula has appeared in court this afternoon.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush and Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock held an urgent news conference in south Auckland this afternoon regarding progress on Operation Concord.

They announced police had arrested a 60-year-old businessman who has been charged with two counts of criminal blackmail in a "significant development" in the case.

Search warrants were also executed today in Auckland and Rangitikei.

The man made a brief appearance in the Manukau District Court this afternoon where he was granted interim name suppression. The charge carries a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment.

Commissioner Bush said there was no threat to the public from the accused. He was one of 2600 people considered in the investigation and police believe he acted alone.

More than 60 "significant persons of interest" were interviewed during the investigation.

A police investigation was launched in March after an anonymous and threatening letter was sent to Fonterra and Federated Farmers over the use of 1080 poison in pest control.

The blackmail attempt threatened to contaminate infant formula with 1080 unless the country stopped using the poison by March this year.

There was also a threat to carry out a publicity campaign promoting the actions of the blackmailer.

The letter didn't directly target Fonterra, but indicated infant and other formula generally.

Inside was a fatal dose of 1080 mixed with milk powder.

Following the threat, infant and other formula at supermarkets were kept under lock and key and extra security was brought in to protect the products.

The Ministry for Primary Industries sought to allay fears of parents saying testing showed no 1080 in infant or other formula.

It said the formula was "as safe as it ever was".

The 11-month investigation cost around $3 million and included 150,000 batch tests of formula.

Det Supt Lovelock thanked those who helped in the investigation including the Ministry for Primary Industries, ESR, Fonterra and Federated Farmers.

"Particular credit should go to the people of New Zealand and elsewhere who reacted to the threat in a measured and considered way," he said.

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