Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Cocaine haul: NZ's rep makes us a target

New Zealand's good reputation probably contributed to it being a target, according to an international drugs expert. Photo / Ross Setford.
New Zealand's good reputation probably contributed to it being a target, according to an international drugs expert. Photo / Ross Setford.

A 165kg haul of cocaine in Algeria found in a New Zealand container was probably put there because of New Zealand's good reputation, according to an international drugs expert.

Algerian officials intercepted the drugs in a shipping container supposed to be carrying milk powder from New Zealand, which had also stopped in Panama and Valencia, Spain.

Hugh Griffiths, an expert on drugs and arms trafficking at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the container was probably targeted by drugs traffickers due to New Zealand's good reputation.

"The majority of illicit narcotics and arms trafficked are moved aboard ships owned by companies based in the world's richest countries,'' he told Radio New Zealand this morning.

Mr Griffiths said it was likely the container was meant to be offloaded in Valencia - a major entry point for illicit drugs into Europe - and not Algeria.

"Somebody has made a mistake somewhere, for sure.''

He said it was unlikely the shipment would ever be traced back to the original network that transported it.

"You will see during this current incident how everyone tries to distance themselves from any form of responsibility.

"At the end of the day what happens is nobody is held accountable and nobody is responsible for what is being transported.''

New Zealand Customs said yesterday there was 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 security seals.

- APNZ

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