Police seize NZ's largest ever cocaine haul

cocaine or other drugs cut with razor blade on mirror. hand dividing white powder narcotic

A third person has been arrested in the operation between Customs and police which led to New Zealand's largest ever seizure of cocaine.

The haul is estimated to have a street value of $14 million.

Police seize NZ's largest ever cocaine haul
Police seize NZ's largest ever cocaine haul

It was found in May when authorities investigated a 400kg sculpture of a diamante-encrusted horse, sent from Mexico and headed for an Auckland address.

Police seize NZ's largest ever cocaine haul

Inside the horse, 35 1kg bricks of the Class A drug were found.

Police seize NZ's largest ever cocaine haul

On Friday night two men were arrested at Auckland International Airport, and police are searching an address in Te Atatu on Saturday.

Of the two arrested, one is a 44-year-old Mexican national and the other is a 56-year-old from the US. 

They have been charged with importing a Class A drug and possession for supply of a Class A drug, namely cocaine. They appeared in the Manukau District Court on Saturday morning.

The men have been granted interim name suppression and have been remanded in custody to reappear in court on Monday.

Police say the men have been in New Zealand for some time, and are believed to have been connected to a wider network involved in the cocaine importation. 

They were trying to fly to Hawaii from Auckland when they were arrested. Police say they had been following the men's activities. 

Police seize NZ's largest ever cocaine haul

A third man, also from Mexico, was arrested on Saturday in Christchurch as police searched two homes in the suburb of Linwood.

Before this 35kg haul, the average amount of cocaine seized at New Zealand borders each year was around 250 grams.

"In New Zealand and Australia ... cocaine sells at a high price and is valuable," Detective Superintendent Virginia Le Bas says. 

She says there is a market for cocaine in New Zealand. It is not the common drug of choice, but is generally used by high society people, she says. 

While it is likely the seized statue may have been sent on to another country, police say there is every possibility it may have been destined for the New Zealand market.

They say they're working with international law enforcement agencies to advance the investigation.

Further arrests are likely.

Importing a Class A drug can result in a life sentence under New Zealand law.