10 people accused of importing over a tonne of drugs into New Zealand

Police have arrested 10 people accused of importing over a tonne of methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine and ephedrine into New Zealand over a three-year period.

Up to $5 million worth of drugs and a million in cash has been seized in a major operation targeting the international drug syndicate.

A New Zealand man has allegedly been operating overseas since 2016, sending drugs to associates back here via multiple countries and using a variety of ways to conceal the drugs.

He was arrested at the border in Italy on February 2, police say.

Police have started a formal extradition process to bring the 31-year-old man back to New Zealand, where he will face 94 charges on serious drug dealing, money laundering and participating in an organised criminal group.

Police have also arrested six of his alleged associates living in New Zealand after search warrants were carried out throughout the wider Auckland region last week. Three others alleged to also be part of the syndicate were arrested late last year.

They include Chilean, Italian, Brazilian and Filipino nationals. 

Police say over $1 million in cash, several high-end vehicles and firearms - including a military-style rifle - were also seized as part of the operation.

Some of the firearms seized.
Some of the firearms seized. Photo credit: NZ Police / Supplied

National Organised Crime Group's Detective Inspector Paul Newman says this was a sophisticated, large-scale international drug syndicate.  

"A tonne of methamphetamine or its precursor ephedrine equates to more than a year's worth of national consumption," he says.

"By arresting and stopping this syndicate's key player, along with his alleged associates, it will go a long way to reducing the amount of this drug being imported into New Zealand, and preventing the harm it causes to our communities."

Police say the investigation remains ongoing and they can't rule out further seizures and arrests.