Eleven arrested after New Zealand authorities intercept huge cocaine shipment from Brazil

  • 02/04/2024
50kgs of cocaine was intercepted.
50kgs of cocaine was intercepted. Photo credit: NZ Police

New Zealand authorities have arrested 11 men, including gang members, after intercepting 50 kilograms of cocaine from an imported shipment.

Police have revealed on Tuesday details of a joint investigation with Customs, dubbed 'Operation Reach'.

During the investigation, authorities identified a "high-risk" shipment arriving at the Port of Tauranga in early February. Indications are that the shipment was coming from Brazil, police said.

Four men, aged between 22 and 36, were initially arrested following the discovery.

As the investigation continued, the execution of several search warrants throughout Tāmaki Makaurau and Tauranga led to a further seven arrests, police said.

Included in these arrests were two males, aged 50 and 59, who are both believed to be senior members of a well-known gang.

"During a further search warrant in the Counties Manukau District, a significant number of firearms, including three semi-automatics and two fully automatic rifles, were located and seized," Detective Inspector Tom Gollan, from Police's National Organised Crime Group, said.

"A 50-year-old male was arrested at this address and was also found in possession of a loaded .22 calibre pistol."

On February 20, police searched a further two properties in Tauranga.

Two more men, aged 33 and 37, and are also believed to be members of the same well-known gang, were arrested in relation to this alleged offending.

Police did not say which gang the men were from.

Insp said police observed extensive preparations being undertaken by the group to recover the cocaine.

"This included the purchase of walkie-talkie radios, an army 'gillie' suit, bolt cutters, gloves, security branded T-shirts, and high-visibility gear," he said.

"These methods, combined with the alleged possession of illegal firearms, demonstrates the lengths criminal enterprises are willing to go to avoid detection and import illicit drugs into New Zealand.

"Unfortunately for this group, Police, alongside our partner agencies, were five steps ahead."

All 11 men are facing charges relating to the importation, conspiracy, and possession for supply of cocaine.

Two of the men are also facing charges relating to the possession of firearms and Police are not ruling out further charges as their investigation continues.

The 11 men are all due to reappear in the Auckland District Court in due course.

Customs investigations manager Dominic Adams adds this was a complex investigation, with Customs and Police working together to target the criminal group.

"Customs continues to screen 100 percent of all air and sea cargo shipments, taking a closer look at shipments that raise red flags," he said.

Adams said Customs also work closely with ports and legitimate supply chain partners to help keep New Zealand's borders safe and secure.