Officials in New Zealand announced this week that they have completed a massive seizure of cocaine at sea, calling it a “major financial blow” to producers and traffickers of the drug.
Authorities there said on Wednesday that the seizure was a part of “Operation Hydros,” with New Zealand Police working in partnership with both New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defence Force.
The announcement said that “no arrests have been made at this stage,” but that “enquiries will continue into the shipment including liaison with our international partners.”
Members of those units intercepted “3.2 tonnes of cocaine afloat” in the Pacific Ocean. NZ Customs Service Acting Comptroller Bill Perry said that the “sheer scale of this seizure is estimated to have taken more than half a billion dollars’ worth of cocaine out of circulation.”
(The news agency United Press International described the seizure as a “3.5 ton haul of cocaine with a street value of $317 million in a major anti-drugs operation carried out in the middle of the Pacific.”)
“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 region,” Perry said. “It is a huge illustration of what lengths organised crime will go to with their global drug trafficking operations and shows that we are not exempt from major organised criminal drug smuggling efforts in this part of the world.”
NZ Police Commissioner Andrew Coster called it “one of the single biggest seizures of illegal drugs by authorities in this country.”
“There is no doubt this discovery lands a major financial blow right from the South American producers through to the distributors of this product,” Coster said.
Coster added, “While this disrupts the syndicate’s operations, we remain vigilant given the lengths we know these groups will go to circumvent coming to law enforcement’s attention.”
The authorities said in the announcement on Wednesday that “eighty-one bales of the product have since made the six-day journey back to New Zealand aboard the Royal New Zealand Navy vessel HMNZS Manawanui, where they will now be destroyed.”
It is believed that “given the large size of the shipment it will have likely been destined for the Australian market,” according to the announcement.
New Zealand Operation Hydros
Coster said that Operation Hydros “was initiated in December 2022, as part of our ongoing close working relationship with international partner agencies to identify and monitor suspicious vessels’ movements.”
“I am incredibly proud of what our National Organised Crime Group has achieved in working with other New Zealand agencies, including New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defence Force. The significance of this recovery and its impact cannot be underestimated,” Coster said.
“We know the distribution of any illicit drug causes a great amount of social harm as well as negative health and financial implications for communities, especially drug users and their families,” Coster added.
The announcement said that Coster noted that the “operation continues already successful work New Zealand authorities are achieving in working together and continues to lessen the impacts of transnational crime worldwide.”
New Zealand Defence Force Joint Forces commander Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said that his unit “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.”
“We were very pleased with the result and are happy to be a part of this successful operation and proud to play our part in protecting New Zealand,” Gilmour said.