Police say they've uncovered a new way methamphetamine is being smuggled into New Zealand - the addictive drug is being "masked" at the source country, then chemically altered to turn into P once it arrives here.
Four men aged 59, 47, 38 and 54, face charges in the Auckland District Court today after a joint police and Customs investigation disrupted a new form of methamphetamine importation.
The men are charged with a range of offences relating to the supply of methamphetamine and the possession of equipment with intent to manufacture a controlled drug (methamphetamine).
The first two defendants appeared in the District Court at Auckland this afternoon.
Yuen Chueng Chan, 42, a salesman, was remanded in custody and will reappear via video-link in court, also on April 6.
Shui Tong Wong, 60, a former chef and takeaway business operator who was currently unemployed, was also remanded in custody to the same date.
His defence lawyer Michael Kan opposed custody, saying Wong was not a flight risk because he had been a New Zealand resident for 33 years, had a 17-year-old son with his wife and had strong ties here.
Police said $250,000 found during the course of his arrest was a "considerable amount of money" and could be used to assist with flight.
"We don't know how much money the defendant may or may not have access to."
The prosecution also feared that Wong, who had no criminal history, might be at risk of reoffending.
However, the judge said that have "considered all matters before me" he declined bail.
In delivering the bail decision the judge summarised how the defendant was facing charges alongside three "co-accused".
"The charges relate to an investigation in December 2016, by the National Organised Crime group, code-named Operation Reverse."
The judge in further summarising the facts described how following Wong's arrest $250,000 cash was found at the defendant's address in Te Atatu South, along with 28g of methamphetamine and drug utensils.
He described the events leading up to Wong's appearance at the Auckland District Court today.
The judge detailed how a consignment of cargo containing an estimated 160 litres of T-boc methamphetamine labelled as dish-washing liquid left Hong Kong aboard the vessel MOL Destiny, on January 14 2017.
He said it arrived in New Zealand on January 28 2017 and was examined by NZ Customs, which analysed the substance and found it to contain the material known as T-boc.
The judge described how over varying days police alleged the co-accused delivered the consignments to an address in Pakuranga, before later moving it using a delivery company into a storage unit in New Lynn, then to an address in Te Atatu.
Wong, was arrested at a Newmarket TAB, along with a fellow defendant, said the judge.
It's understood the remaining two accused alongside Chan and Wong appeared earlier today.
The police and Customs operation led to homes and commercial addresses in Lynfield, Waitakere, Newmarket, Epsom, Avondale and New Lynn being searched last night.
T-Boc is a form of methamphetamine that is chemically masked to prevent it being detected.
Through a chemical process it can then be converted back to methamphetamine for the purpose of supply. It is believed to be the first time this form of methamphetamine has been seized in New Zealand.
The liquid and equipment seized in the operation is believed to be able to convert T-boc methamphetamine into approximately 120kg of methamphetamine.
Detective Superintendent Dave Lynch said the joint investigation was a very good example of co-operation between New Zealand agencies and overseas partners to disrupt the supply chain of methamphetamine.
"The approach to disrupting the supply chain hinges on the strong networks we have built with our partners in the Chinese National Narcotics Control Commission, across Government including the New Zealand Customs Service," he said.
"With these strong networks, Police and Customs are becoming increasingly successful at disrupting the supply of illicit drugs into this country and holding those who profit from importation to account.
"We believe this is the first time a consignment of t-boc methamphetamine has been intercepted in New Zealand, and we rely on our strong partnerships both at home and overseas to stay abreast of the changing trends in the illicit trade in drugs."
Customs investigations manager Maurice O'Brien said the success of this investigation showed that criminal syndicates go to great lengths and are becoming more sophisticated in their methods of concealment. But they can still be detected by law enforcement authorities.
"Customs has the mechanisms and technology in place to identify and intercept such shipments. We will continue to work alongside Police and our overseas partners to target and stop drugs at the border, in order to prevent it from getting into and harming our communities," he said.
The seized methamphetamine could have caused $148 million worth of drug harm to the community, according to the 2016 Drug Harm Index.
The charges listed on court sheets are:
Conspire to manufacture a controlled drug namely meth;
Possessed equipment, namely an evaporator, agitator and glassware capable of being used for the commission of an offence against the Misuse of Drugs Act;
Possessed material namely T-boc meth capable of being used in the commission of an offence.
- Additional reporting: Corazon Miller