Drug trade: How the the Poles and the King Cobras cooked up a drug deal

A Polish-led syndicate was responsible for importing about 34kg of amphetamine powder in a 2 1/2 year period.

Less than a third of the shipped product was seized, but the interceptions made gave investigators a dramatic insight into the changing shape of the drug trade.

In April 2000, a large manila envelope turned up at the International Mail Centre in Auckland. The address was a post office box in the Far North town of Kaitaia. The sender's details were from Warsaw.

The declaration form glued to the front said that inside the package was a "CD Rom Rekorder" (sic) but inside was a metal box containing 490g of high-purity amphetamine, known as speed.

Customs and police decided to conduct what is known as a "controlled delivery" - tracking who collected the package.

Officers admit they had no idea who the package was destined for. In fact, there was a degree of intrigue: why would speed with a street value of up to $900,000 be sent from Poland to Kaitaia?

From the moment the package left the mail centre, police and Customs officers kept close watch. Around 10am on April 18, a woman in an imported Nissan Bluebird drove up to the Kaitaia Post Office.

A young child was in the back. Twenty-four years old with shoulder-length hair, Cecelia Kermeen looked nothing like a player in an international drug ring.

With the package on the front seat, Kermeen set off from Kaitaia and drove around for several hours, puffing on Winfield cigarettes. She stopped in Kerikeri at McDonald's. Police believe the Far North tiki-tour was an attempt to slip away from anyone following her, although Kermeen said she simply wanted to take her daughter to McDonald's as something different to do for the holidays.

Late in the afternoon, she pulled up at a Coopers Beach carpark and finally opened the package. Police and Customs officers pounced.

Kermeen's car was searched and her house raided. Around the property was a further 58g of amphetamine, 16g in 1g snaplock bags, and 5g of 30 per cent pure heroin. Investigators also found a set of small electronic scales, gloves, a mask and evidence of $14,000 worth of money transfers to Thailand.

What puzzled investigators was how Kermeen, a former masseuse now living on the DPB in Mangonui, had become entangled with an Eastern European drug syndicate. The penny dropped when she revealed her partner was Gary Martin who, at the time, was on remand in Mt Eden Prison on unrelated charges.

Martin's cellmate was the notorious leader of the King Cobra gang, Rocky Pulete, already implicated in another deal with the Poles. Members of the syndicate locked up in Mt Eden were using the jail as an introduction service to hook up with local criminals keen to make money out of pedalling speed.

Highway 61 gang members were involved in a July 2000 500g importation of speed from Germany, in a deal cut with the Eastern Europeans and the Tribesmen were involved in another deal.

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