NZ Customs Service Halts Transnational Crime with Partnership

New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Customs Service are pleased to have supported United States law enforcement in preventing close to 200 kilograms of methamphetamine from reaching New Zealand and Australian borders.

A joint international task force, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and consisting of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), identified a drug trafficking organisation.

Over a 12-month period, the task force collected evidence, seized almost 200 kilograms of methamphetamine heading to New Zealand and Australia, and made five arrests in the United States.

"This result is an excellent example of the United States' work to disrupt transnational crime cells, supported by New Zealand and Australian authorities. New Zealand Police and Customs provided intelligence that further assisted US authorities in building their case against the alleged offenders," says Security and International Police Liaison Inspector Paul Newman.

NZ Police and Customs have Liaison Officers based in the US whose role is to form partnerships with local law enforcement. These partnerships bridge the jurisdictional gap between law enforcement and connect investigators from both countries.

"New Zealand and Australian drug users pay big money for harmful drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine, and this makes it attractive for drug trafficking organisations in the US to send drugs to our countries," says Inspector Newman.

"It is clear that criminals have become connected to take advantage of this and to counter this transnational threat, law enforcement has done the same. We consistently share intelligence on criminal groups operating out of both countries, which continues to have good results."

Customs Investigations Manager Dominic Adams adds that New Zealand's key strategy to disrupt illicit drug smuggling networks is targeting both ends of the international supply chain – upon import once the drugs reach New Zealand, as well as before export to stop the drugs from being sent here in the first place.

"We work closely with our international and domestic law enforcement partners to identify, target and tackle transnational crime cells operating in both countries. Targeting overseas-based drug trafficking organisations, closer to the source, is a more effective way to cause maximum impact. While there is a lot of profit to be made by supplying drugs to New Zealand, we would like to become as unattractive as possible.

"We have been working with our US counterparts for many years now, with our collaboration and success growing from strength to strength. Seizures at the US border that were destined for New Zealand have been increasing every year. This helps with our intelligence gathering and sharing to target criminal groups involved, and it helps our local frontline officers to focus their efforts on shipments being sent to our shores," Mr Adams says.

US law enforcement agencies are proactive in identifying and seizing border-controlled drugs that are exported from the US. The US Customs Border Protection (CBP) have been running projects since 2016 targeting drug exports heading to destinations like New Zealand.

According to reporting provided to Customs, US authorities were involved in seizing approximately 1102 kilograms of border-controlled drugs – including 1087 kilograms methamphetamine – heading to New Zealand in 2023. This included a single shipment of approximately 265 kilograms of methamphetamine stopped in March 2023.

A subsequent HSI investigation led to the arrest of a US man, while a similar concurrent investigation in New Zealand by Police and Customs identified five people who have since been charged and are currently before the court.

Inspector Newman affirms "These results would not be possible without close collaboration between law enforcement in both countries. Intelligence sharing is key to enable us to understand and tackle the criminal environment."

"For New Zealand, these arrests and seizures have prevented significant profits being made by organised crime and have also prevented considerable harm. We will continue to work alongside our international partners to ensure that those involved in this activity are held responsible for their offending."

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