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$316 million-dollar discovery made in Pacific Ocean

A view of the Pacific Ocean at Patrick's Point State Park near Trinidad, California. (Dreamstime/TNS)
February 10, 2023

Authorities in New Zealand secured one of the biggest drug busts in their history on February 8 with the discovery of 3.2 tons of cocaine floating in a remote location of the Pacific Ocean.

“This is one of the biggest seizures of illegal drugs by authorities in this country,” Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said in a joint press release regarding the find. “While this disrupts the syndicates operations, we remain vigilant given the lengths we know these groups will go to circumvent coming to law enforcement’s attention. There is no doubt this discovery lands a major financial blow right from the South American producers through the distributors of this product.”

“I am incredibly proud of what our National Organized Crime Group has achieved in working with other New Zealand agencies, including New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defense Force. The significance of this recovery cannot be underestimated,” Coster added.

New Zealand Customs Service Acting Coordinator Bill Perry stated the recovered drugs have an estimated street value of NZ $500 million, or $316 million U.S. dollars.

“Customs is pleased to have helped prevent such a large amount of cocaine causing harm in communities here in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere in the wider Pacific,” Perry said. “The sheer scale of this seizure is estimated to have taken more than half a billion dollars worth of cocaine out of circulation.”

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Commander Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour of the New Zealand Defense Force Joint Forces expressed his pleasure to be able to assist government agencies on their missions to detect illicit drug trade operations.

“We had the right people and the right capabilities to provide the support required and it was great to work alongside the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Customs Service,” Gilmour said. “We were very pleased with the result and are happy to be part of this successful operation and are proud to play our part in protecting New Zealand.”

The detection of the 81 bales of cocaine is credited to Operation Hydros, a joint operation that combines New Zealand Police, New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Initiated in December of 2022 with a primary goal of identification and monitoring of suspicious vessels, this drug seizure marks the new program’s first large interception of illegal drugs.

Authorities believe the cocaine was dropped at coordinates for a scheduled pick up and delivery to a destination in Australia. Some of the recovered packets bear logos such as Batman or black four-leaf clovers used by drug supplying syndicates in international trade. No arrests have been made at this time, however, law enforcement continues to investigate.

The recovered cocaine was transported to shore by Royal New Zealand Navy Vessel HMNZS Manawanui, where it will be destroyed.