Four Asian tourists visiting New Zealand are facing a maximum of life imprisonment after being caught allegedly trying to smuggle over 12 kilograms of methamphetamine with a street value of around NZD 12 million (AUD 11.2 million) into the country on Saturday.
Two men and two women, in their early to mid-twenties, appeared in Manukau District Court near Auckland yesterday, each charged for importation and possession of a class A controlled drug. They remain in custody until their next court appearance.
New Zealand Customs have been busy recently. In an unconnected case just last month, three men and one woman aged between 24 and 26 years were arrested and had in excess of NZD 1 million in assets seized, following a joint Police and Customs operation.
The investigation, codenamed Operation Gemini, commenced in November after Customs intercepted multiple imports of the drug Alpha PVP in excess of three kilograms sent from China.
Detective Senior Sergeant Brent Murray said Alpha PVP was an emerging drug threats which was usually sold in capsule form for around NZD 40 and is snorted.
“Police have received reports of significant adverse effects resulting from Alpha PVP use,” Murray said.
Alpha-PVP is a stimulant type drug that can produce many of the same psychoactive effects as Methamphetamine and Ecstasy. In New Zealand, it is commonly referred to as “niff” or “bath salts”.
The investigation focussed on a group of three males believed to be importing and distributing the drug within the Wellington area.
In March 2015, search warrants were executed at several addresses around the Wellington district resulting in Police’s Central Asset Recovery Unit restraining assets with an estimated value of just over NZD 1 million.
The assets include two residential properties, three motor vehicles, a Harley Davidson motorbike, two boats, a jet ski, three trailers, the contents of a bank account, and NZD 107,000 worth of bonus bonds.
“Alpha PVP is known to cause significant harm within communities and there are several examples internationally of irrational and aggressive behaviour with at times fatal consequences,” Murray said.
“Removing this drug from the community is preventing further serious harm and saving families the anguish and heartache experienced overseas.”
“Seizing assets from criminals is a reminder to offenders that crime doesn’t pay.”
Investigations are continuing and it is likely further charges will result.
Edited by William Sykes