Massive drug bust: 20-year-old in court following $176 million meth seizure

A man has been charged with attempting to smuggle almost 200kg of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of $176 million, into New Zealand disguised as teabags.

The 20-year-old Hong Kong national appeared in Auckland District Court this morning after Customs discovered the drugs hidden inside 10 shipping containers.

It is the largest-ever meth bust carried out by Customs.

READ MORE: Abandoned boat leads police to record $448m haul of methamphetamine

The man was charged over his role in attempting to smuggle an estimated 176kg of methamphetamine, Customs said, with a potential street value of $176 million

The discovery was the result of a 16-month investigation, after Customs identified a company believed to have been set up in June 2015 to smuggle methamphetamine.

In July this year, Customs intercepted 10 shipping containers sent to the company from China, with multiple meth packages concealed within the containers' doors disguised as bags of tea.

The 20-year-old man was arrested following two search warrants in Auckland in early October, where further evidence of his involvement was found, Customs said.

Meth seized from the container doors. Photo / Supplied
Meth seized from the container doors. Photo / Supplied

Customs group manager intelligence, investigations and enforcement, Jamie Bamford, said the "significant seizure" showed Customs can make a dent in the methamphetamine supply chain.

The border agency continues to use intelligence to target shipments before they arrive, he said.

"Customs remains focused on disrupting transnational smuggling through our role at the border and dismantling the criminal syndicates involved. This operation is ongoing, and we are not ruling out further arrests.

"This seizure will have prevented New Zealand's criminal gangs from profiting from the misery caused by pushing meth through our cities and rural communities," Bamford said.

Meth in the container door. Photo / Supplied
Meth in the container door. Photo / Supplied

Based on the New Zealand Drug Harm Index, this seizure has prevented a potential social harm of up to $218 million, Customs said.

"As with all our investigations, we will also liaise with our overseas customs counterparts for follow-up investigations in China and Hong Kong."

The man is due to appear in Auckland District Court next month.

- NZ Herald

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