Two more people in multi-million-dollar family drug smuggling enterprise sentenced

Two more members of an Auckland family drug smuggling enterprise have been handed sentences.

Anita Muru, 34, and her mother, Dayle Muru, 62, were sentenced in the Manukau District Court, Customs said in a statement on Tuesday.

Anita was given five years and nine months in jail. Dayle was sentenced to six months' community detention and six months' supervision and has forfeited $30,425 seized in the investigation for her role in the smuggling operation.

Kevin Muru, 41, the brother and son of Anita and Dayle, was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months' imprisonment in April 2023.

Customs said it began Operation Montana in early 2020 after approximately five kilograms of methamphetamine was discovered hidden inside a rhinoceros statue sent from South Africa.

Investigations identified multiple drug importations and examined a total of 14 consignments sent via either international mail, fast freight, or air freight from South Africa, Asia, and Europe that hid either methamphetamine or MDMA in everyday items such as books, clothes, handbags, cans of cocoa, and tubs of cream.

Customs said that overall, seizures totalled more than 16.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, which could have produced around 825,000 common doses of methamphetamine, and more than 16 kilograms of MDMA, which could have produced approximately 128,000 individual doses.

A rhinoceros statue used to smuggle drugs.
A rhinoceros statue used to smuggle drugs. Photo credit: Customs

Estimated street values at the time indicated the methamphetamine could have had a potential street value of between $6.6 million and $10 million. The MDMA was potentially worth around $3.2 million.   

"Stopping these quantities of methamphetamine and MDMA ecstasy prevented around NZ$18.5 million dollars' worth of harm reaching communities in Aotearoa," Customs investigation manager Cam Moore said.

Customs' investigations established that from the Muru family, Kevin was leading the operation by communicating with overseas drug suppliers and directing members of his criminal group to arrange delivery addresses and collection of packages containing smuggled drugs that came into New Zealand.

A cocoa tin used to hide drugs.
A cocoa tin used to hide drugs. Photo credit: Customs

His sister Anita assisted in arranging drug shipments, including payment of Customs charges, and directing other members of the criminal group to source addresses and help with collection and transportation of drugs.

Their mother Dayle was being directed to help collect packages in exchange for payment of money. She also allowed her apartment to be used to store the drugs and cash.

Another associate, Tina Turner, 41, was sentenced to 12 months' home detention in November 2022 for her role in arranging a delivery address for some of the smuggled drugs.

A hollowed-out book used to hide drugs.
A hollowed-out book used to hide drugs. Photo credit: Customs

Moore said this case highlights the fact that organised criminal groups don't just mean large transnational syndicates.

"Opportunistic groups, such as families, are also known to set up criminal businesses to make money out of the misery they cause our communities," he said.

Anyone who has concerns about possible suspicious behaviour or activity can contact Customs confidentially on 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768) or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.