Two men will spend more than 20 years' combined in New Zealand prisons after a multi-million dollar Chinese drug syndicate was thwarted in an elaborate sting by police and Customs.
The Herald on Sunday can reveal details of the intricate operation which began with the recruitment of "drug catchers" in Asia, sent specifically to Auckland to expedite the importation of crystal meth for the New Zealand drug market.
The investigation began after the discovery of 39.6kg of crystal meth hidden in a shipment from China last February, which had an estimated street value of $40 million.
It ended with several raids on Auckland properties, the discovery of millions of dollars in cash, more drugs, and the seizure of several sports cars, including a Ferrari and Lamborghini.
On Thursday Taiwan national Tze Te Hung was sentenced at the High Court in Auckland to 13 years and 9 months in prison for his role in importing the class A drug from China.
Yen Hua Chen was last year sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison.
Hung was the third person to be sentenced as part of Operation Coral, a covert surveillance sting by the Organised Crime Agency and New Zealand Customs.
Hung, along with Chen, had been recruited with the objective of facilitating the importation of vast quantities of meth into New Zealand, court documents reveal.
Hung arrived in New Zealand from Taiwan on January 20 last year, later followed by Chen from China on February 10.
The shipment arrived at the Ports of Auckland on February 21 in the form of 28 boxes described as "granite tea trays".
Four days later the consignment was examined by Customs and nearly 40kg of concealed crystal meth was discovered.
Court documents show the crystals, with a purity of 76 per cent, were the equivalent to 30kg of pure methamphetamine. Customs estimated the shipment had a street value of $40m.
After the discovery, Customs replaced the majority of the drugs with a placebo and tracked the delivery to its intended address, arriving at the Forrest Hill property where the pair lived on March 1 about midday.
Hung and Chen then spent the afternoon smashing open the granite tea trays and removed what they thought was crystal meth.
Arrangements were made to meet Ka Kit Yim at 9.30pm that night at the carpark of the Sunnynook Countdown supermarket.
The two men parked alongside Yim's Mercedes-Benz and handed him a large plastic bag carrying the repackaged placebo, before Yim left to meet another associate.
However, Yim soon discovered he'd received fake meth, and arranged to again meet Hung and Chen to return it.
Also on March 1, Hung made arrangements to meet Kit Hing Wong, who had travelled from his Wellington home to sample the imported drugs.
The next day, Yim was arrested while driving his Mercedes, and police found a small bag of the placebo in his car.
Later, at about 7.30pm, Wong met with Chen and Hung in the carpark of the Glenfield Mall where Wong was given a sample of the placebo, believing it to be meth.
Undercover police arrested Wong shortly after. Police also raided Chen and Hung's rental property, where the pair were found and arrested.
On March 3, police carried out several more raids on secure car parks, storage units, and luxury vehicles belonging to Yim.
Inside Yim's Lamborghini at a St Lukes storage unit, police found $932,160 in cash, while $550,650 in cash was found inside a BMW.
At a Newmarket apartment complex, 1kg of methamphetamine was discovered, along with an additional $141,940 in a BMW belonging to Yim.
A further $214,708 was found at Yim's Panmure home, bringing the total amount of cash seized to more than $1.8 million.
During Hung's sentencing this week for importing a class A drug, Justice Graham Lang said Hung was approached by another person in Taiwan and offered the opportunity to travel to New Zealand.
"You took that opportunity because you had never travelled abroad before. You knew when you came to New Zealand that you would be assisting in the importation of drugs," Justice Lang said.
"You say, however, that you did not know that you would be required to physically deal with the drugs. You also say that you were then threatened by those above you in the organisation. This led you to conclude you had no option but to do as they said."
However, Justice Lang said Hung "knowingly became involved" and "people like you play an important role in any drug importation because they protect the organisers from being arrested".
Justice Lang said Hung had appeared to "demonstrate some insight" into his offending during his time already spent in custody which alerted him "to the fact that New Zealand now has a widespread drug problem".
"You also say you feel ashamed for your actions before your family and also the people in New Zealand."
Justice Lang said Hung would be deported once his sentence ended.
During Chen's sentencing on December 13 last year at the High Court in Auckland for possession of methamphetamine for supply, Justice John Fogarty said the Chinese man was a "significant player in the organisation of this importation".
"Chen's role can be seen as pivotal to the success of this large scale methamphetamine dealing operation. Essentially Chen and Hung can be seen as the start of the New Zealand supply chain."
Chen was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison and will also be deported once his sentence is complete.
Wong, a director and 50 per cent shareholder of a Wellington Noodle Canteen, was sentenced to home detention and ordered to undergo drug counselling on February 9 at the High Court in Auckland for conspiracy to possess a class A drug.
Yim will be sentenced at the High Court in Auckland next month.