Police and Customs today announced the results of a significant multi-agency approach in the fight against methampethamine production.
Operation Vim, involving Police, Customs and Immigration, seized approximately 240,000 pre-cursor pills destined for the New Zealand methamphetamine drug-making trade and arrested and charged 4 people with various drug offences.
The bulk of the capsules were discovered inside the cavity of furniture arriving in two containers from China, at the Auckland port, over the last week. Two people have been charged with importing pseudoephdrine and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, which carries a penalty of 14 years, in relation to the shipping containers.
Two other people were arrested and charged with importing Class C and other offences.
Head of Auckland Metro Crime and Operations, Superintendent Ted Cox says many of the targets identified in Operation Vim were Chinese nationals and one of the aims was to warn these people away from their peripheral involvement by way of bringing the pre-cursor drugs across the border.
"What we want to achieve through the publicity is raised awareness in the community that bringing pre-cursor drugs into New Zealand is illegal and detection by authorities is highly likely. The message is the same for any sections of the community, if they choose to break our drug laws they will be caught."
The most common pseudoephedrine-based tablet being brought into the country from China is called Contac NT, which is not an approved medicine for import into New Zealand. The Class C importation charge carries a penalty of up to 8 years imprisonment.
Customs Manager for Drug Investigations, Simon Williamson says customs officers are now intercepting and detecting large amounts of pre-cursor pills almost on a daily basis and this Operation is confirmation of what has been occurring over the last two to three years.
"We have literally rooms full of pills taken at our borders. We are working with the Police in sending a clear message that bringing the pseudoephedrine-based tablets into the country is unlawful and being caught can carry serious consequences."
Customs figures show over 1.6 million tablets have been seized at the border since 1st January this year alone.
It is believed all the tablets seized were destined for the domestic methamphetamine drug trade. The operation has calculated that one box of pseudoephedrine-based tablets such as Contac NT, which costs two dollars in China, can fetch up to $2000.00 profit when used in the production of methamphetamine.
"The message here is that when you are asked to carry a package or receive a package or a shipping container by someone you donâ€™t know, be warned, that it could potentially be a cover to traffic illegal pre-cursor drugs and ignorance of the law is not a defence."
Janine Parsons, NZIS Service Manager says if those arrested are convicted on the charges laid, the service will look to revoke permits.
In another example of the multi-pronged approach being used to target methamphetamine, Operation Leningrad was terminated yesterday following a four-month covert investigation centred on drug dealers. A total of 7 people were arrested and charged with serious drug dealing offences.
Twelve search warrants were executed across Auckland from Mangere to Albany and from the Eastern suburbs to Helensville.
Mr Cox says the Organised Crime squad identified the principal targets in Operation Leningrad as members of a motorcycle gang.
"During the termination small amounts of per-cursor material, ecstacy, methamphetamine and cannabis were seized. One person who was arrested was sleeping next to a loaded Barretta semi-automatic pistol."
A Subaru Impreza and a late model BMW allegedly belonging to a 22-year-old beneficiary were also seized during the termination.
The dangers associated with the manufacturing process were highlighted in another explosion in a Flat Bush residence, the third of its kind in the last six weeks.
A search warrant was executed at the address in respect to stolen vehicles. Whilst at the address staff became aware there may have been a clan lab operating inside. The staff retreated and notified the relevant emergency services. Within minutes the house exploded sending the occupants including two small children running from the address. A man has been charged with various drugs charges including manufacturing a Class A drug and arson.
Mr Cox says the fight against methamphetamine will not be won easily unless everyone in the community come on board to condemn this illegal trade and assist in detection and most importantly provide information to police. Residents need to be aware of the tell-tale factors, unusual activities, strange chemical odours, high volumes of traffic and the presence of chemical containers are just a few of the indicators that a clan lab could be operating.
COUNTIES MANUKAU POLICE/AMCOS COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
There will be a photo opportunity available of the furniture with the drugs still intact in the cavities, the seized vehicles, the Flat Bush address and the firearm, after the press conference today.
NZ Customs Contact:
Cell: 029 251 3167
Ph: 04 9154364