James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Man in court after bust turns up drugs, cash

A Hamilton man is facing serious drug-related charges after a police operation busted a nationwide drug ring allegedly responsible for importing Ecstasy ingredients with a street value of $8 million.

British-born Chetan Viran Jethwa was arrested and charged with importing, selling and possession of 4-MEC.

The 24-year-old appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Wednesday after a search by police, Customs and Medsafe staff of his home in the suburb of Queenwood revealed several kilograms of 4-MEC.

The substance is the most common ingredient in Ecstasy pills in New Zealand and has been identified in a number of critical hospital admissions.

Jethwa is also facing charges of importing, selling and possessing the designer drug MDPV, which is related to khat, an organic stimulant found in Arab and East African countries.

He was also found with anabolic steroids, prescription medicines and $178,000 in cash.

A later search in a Hamilton city storage unit revealed the group's pill press - with a capacity of producing up to 5000 pills an hour - and large quantities of unidentified powders.

Detective Senior Sergeant Nigel Keall, the Waikato crime services supervisor, said the substances were pressed into pills and sold throughout the country for considerable profits.

He said medical experts were concerned the drugs were being sold with amateur advice as to their use and dosage with little regard for consequences.

"Clients also received guidance around drug-testing and what substances could be used to avoid positive test results for those involved in high-level sport."

Police also searched homes in Auckland and Christchurch revealing more unidentified pills and performance and image-enhancing drugs. In total they recovered 21kg of 4-MEC.

"This is sufficient to manufacture over 200,000 pills at a standard street value of $40 each," said Mr Keall.

Two Auckland men have been charged with offering to supply 4-MEC and police say further arrests are likely pending results of scientific analysis of the unidentified powders and prescription medicines.

Jethwa was remanded on bail.

- NZ Herald

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