The lawyers for two men accused over the country's biggest ever cocaine bust insist their clients had no idea drugs were inside a horse-head statue.
Ronald Cook Senior and Agustin Suarez-Juarez have pleaded not guilty in the High Court in Auckland to importing 35kg cocaine inside a bejewelled statue in May last year.
The haul's estimated street value was $14 million.
Peter Kaye, the lawyer for Mr Suarez-Juarez, said his client did not know there was a controlled drug inside the sculpture at the time.
He also questioned what control, if any, his client had about what was done with it and if there was even an attempt to supply it.
Mr Cook's lawyer, Sam Wimsett, said his client also did not know the drug was in the packaging.
In his opening address, Crown prosecutor David Stevens said the horse head arrived on 10 May last year.
He said customs officers detected the drug, well-hidden inside the statue, and police then switched out the cocaine for flour in 34 of the 35 packets, leaving six grams of cocaine, polystyrene and a tracking device in the last one.
The horse head was then delivered to a storage unit in Onehunga.
Mr Stevens said the men arrived in New Zealand from Mexico on 31 May, with the sole purpose of renting a house to relocate the horse head.
When the pair returned a month later, he said the men bought power tools and other equipment for the purpose of getting the drugs out of the statue.
He said audio devices police had put in their rented house picked up the noise of power tools and conversation about meeting a prospective buyer for the drugs.
CCTV footage at the hotel the men were staying at captured Mr Cook holding an orange bucket and briefly meeting up with a man in the lobby, Mr Stevens said.
He said the pair made a hasty exit from the hotel to the airport after finding the tracking device.
The men were arrested in the departure lounge at the airport.
Almost 60 Crown witnesses will be called.
The case is set down for four weeks.