New Zealand celebrates largest-ever drug seizure

A navy ship intercepted 3.5 tons of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean – enough to supply Australia for a year

More than 3.5 tons of cocaine were found floating in the Pacific Ocean last week, New Zealand police confirmed on Wednesday. The haul marks the country’s largest drug seizure ever.

The cocaine, packaged in 81 plastic-wrapped bales covered with nets equipped with flotation devices, was located in a joint operation involving New Zealand Police, Customs Service, and a defense force called Operation Hydros that was launched in December to monitor “suspicious vessels’ movements,” according to a statement from the police. The Royal Navy ship HMNZS Manawanui picked up the haul and brought it back to Auckland, where it is due to be destroyed.

Worth about 500 million New Zealand dollars ($316 million) wholesale, the cocaine would have supplied the Australian market for an entire year – and the New Zealand market for 30, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster claimed.

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While the method of packaging and delivery was not unusual for the region, according to Greg Williams, head of the police force’s organized crime group, the amount of cocaine was about four times as large as the haul that previously held the record.

No arrests have been made, nor have police pointed to any suspects. The drop location is thought by police to be a “transit point” for international drug smugglers.

Authorities credited Operation Hydros with the find, stressing the need for law enforcement to work with other government departments. “We see perhaps this is just an indication that the transnational organized crime groups are testing the market in different ways, so as agencies, we need to collaborate,” acting comptroller of the Customs Service Bill Perry said.

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