Former Auckland Airport baggage handler jailed for 14 years over role in 19kg meth bust

A man has been sentenced after organising an attempt to smuggle the methamphetamine.
A man has been sentenced after organising an attempt to smuggle the methamphetamine. Photo credit: Customs/Supplied

Story by RNZ

A former baggage handler at Auckland Airport has been jailed for 14 years for drug smuggling.

In May 2020, Customs stopped a passenger with 19.4 kilograms of methamphetamine in his carry-on suitcase.

It would have had a street worth of up to $8 million at the time.

The 47-year-old man sentenced today was a key organiser of the attempt to smuggle the suitcase through the airport, while the border was shut during the pandemic.

The man had pleaded not guilty to importing methamphetamine.

However, evidence presented at the trial last September showed he texted instructions to fellow baggage handlers to put the drug-laden suitcase on the baggage carousel, and then deliver it from the carousel to outside the airport where he was waiting.

Evidence showed some of them were promised $20,000 each for a successful drop-off.

Investigations manager Dominic Adams said today's sentencing marked the finish of Operation Santana, an intensive investigation that uncovered a criminal enterprise.

The investigation resulted in four additional arrests for drug smuggling in May 2020.

All of those arrested pleaded guilty at trial, including Romney Fukofuka, who was sentenced to seven years' jail time last year.

"Customs understands the temptations or coercion that people working at airports and maritime ports can face with the promise of money, protection, or other enticements," Adams said.

"Today's result sends a clear signal - you lose everything - money, time with family, future career prospects."