The owner of a successful natural health supplement company is one of the first people to be charged with supplying methamphetamine ingredients since precursor materials were upgraded to class-B drugs.
Gary John Read, 44, is a well-known face in Tauranga. He was a party pill retailer before BZP was banned and owned a nightclub on The Strand.
He owns a $1.5 million home in Thailand and sells herbal pills to boost sex drive, weight loss and wellbeing, as well as legal highs such as Tripping Weed and Bong It.
The potent hallucinogenic in these is derived from the salvia divinorum plant, a natural source, and sidesteps the Government's recent crackdown on synthetic cannabis alternatives.
Detectives in the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (Ofcanz) have charged Read as part of an international drug smuggling syndicate.
He faces charges of importing ephedrine into New Zealand, conspiracy to import the drug, possession of ephedrine for supply, and possession of methamphetamine for supply.
Ephedrine is the main ingredient in methamphetamine and is often extracted from the pseudoephedrine found in cold and flu medicine.
The precursor ingredients were upgraded from class-C to class-B drugs just a few weeks before Read's arrest in late September.
Possession for supply now carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, up from eight years.
Read was arrested after an armed offenders squad raid and charged with his daughter, Kahsharn Read, 24, and another woman, Jade Brady, 28, after a joint operation between Ofcanz and Customs investigators.
Brady is also charged with possession of a restricted weapon, a stun gun.
Police allege that a parcel containing 1.8kg of ephedrine was sent from Thailand to an address in the Tauranga suburb of Judea, and Kahsharn Read delivered the parcel to her father within an hour.
Read was allegedly opening the package at the time of a police search.
A week earlier, police allege Read took a plastic container to a secluded garden area in a Tauranga reserve.
When it was dug up, police allegedly found seven ounce bags of methamphetamine (a total of 200g).
An ounce (28.5g) has a wholesale price of around $14,000, but the drug has a street value of around $1000 a gram.
A second package of ephedrine was intercepted during the police raid and another importing charge laid.
After arresting Read, police told the Tauranga District Court that he was a flight risk.
Read is in custody awaiting a bail hearing. His daughter and Brady were released on strict bail conditions.
The police investigation is ongoing and attention could possibly turn to his assets, including his prized Harley-Davidson.
Read is the chief executive, sole director and sole shareholder of ISL Herbal Products, which supplies natural diet supplements to hundreds of stockists around the country.
He wrote on the company website: "Our main priority is to provide a safe and completely natural product that offers a healthy approach to the wellbeing of your entire family."
- additional reporting: Jamie MortonBy Jared Savage @jaredsavageNZH Email Jared