NZ Police Intercept 3.2 Tonnes of Cocaine Floating in Pacific Ocean Awaiting Collection

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Police, Customs and Defence Force intercepted 3.2 tonnes of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean during Operation Hydros, which began in December 2022. Photo: NZ Police

Sources: NZ Herald, NZ Police. New Zealand Police have intercepted 3.2 tonnes of cocaine valued at half a billion dollars, drifting in the Pacific Ocean.

In a joint operation with the Defence Force and Customs, NZ Police recovered 81 bales of cocaine drifting in the Pacific Ocean and say it has been brought back to shore to be assessed and destroyed.

The cocaine was found in nets with flotation devices, awaiting collection.

Police would not comment on how the drugs came to their attention.

“You’ll understand the need to protect our methods, but it’s an outstanding result to have covered such a large hole in the communities,” said NZ Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.

NZ Police national organised crime group head Detective Superintendent Greg Williams, left, with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, New Zealand Defence Force Joint Forces commander Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour and New Zealand Customs Service Acting Comptroller Bill Perry, announcing details of Operation Hydros during their press conference in Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell NZ Herald.

The bales were found six days sailing northeast of New Zealand in international waters.

“The package had not been in the water long before it was found.”

Commissioner Coster says due to the shipment’s size, the drugs were likely to be destined for Australia.

National Organised Crime Group director Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said New Zealand was not a cocaine market.

New Zealand currently consumes about 1.7kg of cocaine a week.

“We are tiny compared to Australia so there is no way 3.2 tonnes are coming here,” Williams said.

The bust is the equivalent of 30 years worth of cocaine supply in New Zealand and one year’s worth in Australia.

It is estimated it would cause $9b worth of social harm if it had been headed for New Zealand.

Police Commissioner Coster says the interception would have dealt a significant blow to South American producers, right through to distributors.

“I am incredibly proud of what has been achieved here, and the impact this will have on organised crime.”

“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,” Coster said.

“As the drugs have not arrived in any country, it’s difficult to understand who is behind the shipment.”

Coster says the region has been targeted by drug distribution groups. “We have a high street value for our drugs and that makes us an attractive market.”.