DEA says New Zealand is 'best market' in world for meth, coke

US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents say New Zealand is the "best market" in world for meth and coke - and it's attracting major attention from cartels.

One of the most powerful, sophisticated Mexican crime groups, the Sinaloa Cartel, is believed to be behind recent major drug finds at the New Zealand border.

Formerly led by Mexican drug lord El Chapo, it's believed to be targeting New Zealand due to high drug prices here - including an attempt to smuggle 110 kilograms of methamphetamine here inside golf cart batteries.

"If you were to ask any significant trafficker what is the best market for meth and coke in the world, they would say Australia and New Zealand," DEA Pacific attache Kevin Merkel told NZME.

"The same people that are pumping drugs out to the United States are the same ones that are pumping out drugs here. If they seen potential to make more money, they're going to do it."

A report from the Drug Intelligence bureau obtained by Newshub shows the US was the top exporter of Mexican meth to New Zealand last year, and states: "Mexican produced meth flows into the nation (US) through the southwest border and then to NZ where the finished product earns far more".

"We pay top dollar. So if you want a good return on your money, you will sell it to New Zealand," National Drug Intelligence bureau manager John O'Keeffe told Newshub in March.

"For example, a kilo of methamphetamine in the US is around US$5000. A kilo in New Zealand is $160,000."

And former DEA agents Javier Pena and Steve Murphy, who inspired the hit Netflix show Narcos by bringing down drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, say they're not surprised Mexican cartels are targeting New Zealand with drugs.

"The goal of all these traffickers is to make money and they do not care where. They're going to hit every market they can," Pena told NZME.

Customs have investigators in places like LA, Washington DC, London and Bangkok and say their work overseas last year stopped 350kg of meth and cocaine before it reached our shores. Police told Newshub they also have multiple officers working in overseas drug hotspots.

And the DEA is also helping, working with New Zealand police and opening offices in Auckland and Wellington.

"I think having a fulltime office there, with one of our trusted allies, a Five Eyes partner, is fantastic," Murphy told NZME.



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