15 Nov 2022

Seven facing charges after 190kg of cocaine found in boiler from Ecuador

7:01 pm on 15 November 2022
190kg of cocaine found inside boiler

The imported boiler that contained the cocaine, police say. Photo: Supplied / NZ police

Police have arrested seven people and seized up to $38 million worth of cocaine in an operation targeting its importation into New Zealand.

Operation Depot has been a one-month-long joint investigation into a drug syndicate, which is alleged to have imported at least 190 kilograms of cocaine into the country.

It was run by the police national organised crime group and Customs.

Seven people, aged between 21 and 37, have been arrested and are facing multiple charges relating to the importation and possession for supply of cocaine, as well as participating in an organised criminal group.

Four people were due to appear in the Auckland District Court today.

Three have already appeared in the same court and are expected to reappear in the coming months.

The cocaine was found when search warrants were executed at several properties in Tāmaki Makaurau this week.

190kg of cocaine found inside boiler

The recovered cocaine. Photo: Supplied / NZ police

The 190kg of cocaine was recovered at a commercial address in New Lynn. It was inside a boiler which had recently been imported from Ecuador.

Enquiries were continuing, and the boiler was still being dismantled to establish if more drugs have been concealed, police said in a statement.

Boiler from Ecuador that had 190kg of cocaine inside it

The boiler is still being dismantled to see if more drugs are inside it. Photo: Supplied / NZ police

National organised crime group's Detective Inspector Paul Newman said the seizure was a significant find for both agencies.

"Organised crime groups are investing increasingly large amounts of money and resources to conceal drugs as they come across the border."

Organised criminal groups looked to exploit weaknesses in the country's systems, he said.

"This was a very sophisticated method of concealment with excellent collaboration of border authorities, which was key to identifying and flagging this import as suspicious."

Customs investigations manager Cam Moore said it had been a complex collaboration by the agencies to break up a significant criminal operation and stop a substantial amount of harm being caused within communities.

There might be more seizures of drugs and arrests related to the case, police said.