Newshub obtains exclusive underwater video of record cocaine haul floating in Pacific Ocean

Newshub has obtained exclusive underwater video of a record haul of cocaine found floating in the Pacific Ocean.

A New Zealand Navy diver who found the haul described it as "unreal" and "like a movie".

It comes as police warn they've identified 25 different transnational crime cells operating there involving people from 17 different countries.

Lead NZ Navy diver Ethan Shergold was one of two divers tasked with getting into the water to inspect a record drug haul in late January 2023.

The operation was codenamed 'Hydros' and involved international partners, police, Customs and the Defence Force.

GoPro footage of the dive, obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act, shows a vast pile of cocaine wrapped in fishing nets bobbing on the surface of the water.

Shergold described the water as "crystal blue".

In total, there were 81 plastic bags, each containing 40 bricks of cocaine.

"First thing you notice is obviously is a little white package like you see in the movies and you're like 'wow' this stuff is real and it's actually happening in this sort of size and scale," Shergold told Newshub.

Shergold and his team regularly search the hulls of ships entering the port for drugs, but had never been involved in an expedition at sea like this.

"It's unreal. I'll never forget. It's definitely a highlight in my career."

Lead NZ Navy diver Ethan Shergold.
Lead NZ Navy diver Ethan Shergold. Photo credit: Newshub

Emails and confidential summary reports obtained by Newshub reveals new information about the mission in January last year.

As the Navy approached, several vessels were identified as being in the vicinity.

However, none deviated from their course or headed close to the drug drop zone.

Police documents show the drugs were located 1200 nautical miles east of New Zealand, meaning it was a five-day voyage for Shergold and his Navy colleagues to reach the drop point.

After receiving intelligence from New Zealand's Five Eyes partners, the Navy headed to a spot 1200 nautical miles east of New Zealand, meaning the drugs were near Fiji or Tonga.

Police say while this haul was likely destined for Australia, New Zealand remains a target because we pay high prices for drugs.

An image of the haul.
An image of the haul. Photo credit: Supplied

Detective Superintendant Greg Williams, national manager of operations for the Police organised crime group, said New Zealand is seen by drug gangs as the "golden nugget" and they want to get their product here.

One way crime groups are doing that is by setting up 'cells' - foot soldiers sent here by cartels such as Mexico's Sinaloa, made famous by the Netflix series Narcos. They establish fake companies, get import licences, sell product, and even manage money laundering.

"One of the last transnational organised crime group cells last year was Mexicans in Auckland, coming in, bringing meth in, using Airbnbs," Det Supt Williams told Newshub.

Police have identified 25 such cells.

"I think out of those 25 cells, we've had people from 17 different countries across the world," Det Supt Williams told Newshub.

They're also putting people into the Pacific - the Sinaloa Cartel was found to have a fixer in Fiji in 2018.

And just last month, four tonnes of meth was found in Nadi. Det Supt Williams said the destination for the drugs was "no doubt" New Zealand and Australia.

He said this find in Fiji was a "wake-up call" for New Zealand.