Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Fonterra rejects drug haul claim

It might have been found in a NZ powdered milk container - but that doesn't mean the huge cocaine haul came from here, says Customs. Photo / Thinkstock
It might have been found in a NZ powdered milk container - but that doesn't mean the huge cocaine haul came from here, says Customs. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra says it has strict security measures after reports that a massive drug haul in Algeria came from New Zealand in a powdered milk container.

Algerian police seized 165kg of cocaine concealed in a powdered milk container from New Zealand, according to foreign media reports.

But Customs here says there is no evidence to suggest the drugs came from New Zealand or that any illegal substances were introduced into the container before it left the country.

"Fonterra is a trusted trader and is part of Customs' Secure Export Scheme. Containers are sealed when they are packed, and the seal assures that the container has not been breached until it is loaded onto a ship,'' said New Zealand Customs spokesman Paul Campbell.

Fonterra also pointed to the export scheme, which had "strict security measures'', a spokesman said.

All the company's containers left New Zealand with sealed lids, he said.

"We're aware of reports from Algeria that a container loaded with milk powder is being investigated. We're waiting to hear which Algerian authority is leading the investigation and we're on standby to provide any information as required,'' said the spokesman.

Customs was aware that the cargo in which the drugs was found was unloaded and reloaded in Panama and Valencia, Spain, Mr Campbell said.

"We have engaged our attache in Brussels and he will be working to establish the facts.

"Customs has very high confidence in the integrity of New Zealand exports.''

The Agence France-Presse news agency reported that the container had been imported by Algerian company ONIL.

The haul was thought to be one of the largest ever intercepted in the North African country.

A New Zealand Police spokesman said it would get involved only if there was a suggestion of unlawful activity in New Zealand.

- APNZ

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