Police have arrested eight people in a major operation they say has disrupted plans to import hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into New Zealand from Mexico.
Search warrants were carried out at 11 properties throughout Bay of Plenty, Northland and Auckland on Thursday morning, with Operation Tarpon targeting key players of a drug syndicate operating in New Zealand with links to a Mexican cartel.
Police allege those involved "conspired to import a large quantity of cocaine and methamphetamine into New Zealand via shipping containers". It's also alleged that some of the group imported a smaller quantity of cocaine from their central American contacts by courier mail to sell and distribute in Aotearoa.
The eight men arrested, who age between 26 and 62, face multiple drug-related charges, including conspiracy to import a Class A controlled drug, importing a Class A controlled drug, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and possession for supply.
Two of those arrested are patched members of the Rotorua chapter of the Filthy Few Motorcycle Club.
All eight men are due to appear in the Tauranga District Court over the coming days.
The arrests follow an eight-month investigation by detectives with the operation being run by the National Organised Crime Group (NOCG). More than 100 Police and Customs staff, including members of the Armed Offenders Squad, Dog Section, Specialist Search Group, the Police Clandestine Laboratory Team and Bay of Plenty and Northland district staff, were involved in the warrants.
Ten properties were searched, including in Rotorua, Te Kaha, Te Puke, Omokoroa, Mt Albert and Auckland Central. A boat moored in Northland was also searched.
NOCG acting Detective Inspector John Brunton says the investigation is another example of Police working collaboratively with New Zealand Customs to prevent the devastating harm created by the sale and supply of illicit drugs.
"In this case, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated investigation team who worked around the clock, we were able to identify and disrupt this syndicate’s plans before the drug shipment reached New Zealand shores," he says.
"We want to send a clear message that those importing or dealing such drugs will be found out, will be arrested and prosecuted."
Police cannot rule out further arrests as the Police investigation is ongoing.