Sentencing in Operation Skipjack

As stated by Detective Senior Sergeant Hamish Blackburn, Wellington Police

Police acknowledge the sentencing of a man following the successful termination of Operation Skipjack, an operation targeting the importation and supply of illegal drugs.

Justin Rankin, 36, was arrested in November 2020 and charged with the possession of 400 litres of Gamma Butyrolactone (GBL) and the supply of a further 1,800 litres of GBL over a three year period.

Today he was sentenced in the Wellington District Court to a period of 7-and-a-half years imprisonment.

The seizure of 400 litres of GBL in November 2020 remains the largest recorded domestic seizure of GBL in New Zealand.

Operation Skipjack is a joint investigation that commenced in August 2020 between New Zealand Customs and the Wellington Police Drugs & Organised Crime team into the importation and supply of the Class B controlled Drug Gamma Butyrolactone (GBL) and the class C controlled drug Eutylone.

Street names for GBL include G, fantasy, rinse and liquid ecstasy. Eutylone is an Amphetamine Type Substance (ATS) and is being sold as Ecstasy.

During the operation a total of 42 search warrants were executed across the North Island, with more than 20 people before the Courts facing a total of 192 charges.

Detective Senior Sergeant Hamish Blackburn says “Operation Skipjack has caused significant disruption to the illicit drug market and the seizure of such an enormous quantity of GBL has had a positive impact on preventing harm, and our communities are safer as a result.

“In tandem with the ‘High Alert’ drug warning system ( https://highalert.org.nz/ ) that was activated in November 2020 identifying this issue, Operation Skipjack has significantly impacted this syndicate’s activity and the associated harm pedalled into our communities.”

The investigation identified that more than 7000 litres of GBL had been imported into New Zealand in the last three years, with NZ Customs seizing significant amounts of the drug during the investigation. According to the website knowyourstuff.nz a standard dose of GBL is between 0.9mls and 1.5mls, which corresponds to between 4,600 and 7,800 individual doses of the harmful drug.

The New Zealand Drug Harm Index identifies the community harm of these drugs at more than a billion dollars (NZ Drug Harm Index 2016). The street value of the GBL involved is estimated at $28,000,000.

Police would like to thank Customs along with their other partners and agencies for their contribution to this successful operation.

Customs Investigations Manager, Cam Moore, says it was extremely satisfying to break-up such a significant drug smuggling operation.

“The success of these investigations is underpinned by the excellent working relationship between Customs, NZ Police and our partner agencies,” Cam Moore says.

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