Police bust P lab, seize gun in luxury high-rise

By BRIDGET CARTER

A drug laboratory, a gun and $1 million worth of methamphetamine have been found in one of Auckland's most exclusive apartment towers.

Police raided the Ascott Metropolis this week and arrested a man in a privately owned room.

A man has appeared in the Auckland District Court charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and has been remanded to reappear this month.

The arrest came when police went to an apartment on the 17th floor of the apartment tower, which doubles as a hotel. The apartment costs $400 a night, which is about the same as a studio apartment's weekly rental.

The tower has 38 levels, with modern art, antique furniture, floors made of Italian limestone and marble in the foyer. When built during 1990s, people questioned whether the $200 million project by developer Andrew Krukziener would ever get off the ground.

Yesterday one of the detectives involved in the bust said the alleged laboratory was "quite a big set-up".

"There was a lot of equipment in there," he said.

"The place was messy and there was laboratory glassware all over the place."

It is understood police discovered the laboratory after the landlord visited the apartment because the tennant had not paid the rent.

The apartment owner opened the door and found a laboratory and no one there. Security staff called the police.

Police arrived at the room and at first thought they had the wrong place because when a security staff member opened the door, someone was inside, and they had been told the apartment had been abandoned.

Police officers left the apartment, made inquiries to check they had the right place, then re-entered. The person inside was taken to the police station for questioning.

In the apartment, police found a cylinder allegedly used to cook the highly addictive illegal Class A drug known as P.

They found 1kg of the alleged finished methamphetamine product. Police say 1kg of methamphetamine on the street would sell for $1 million.

There was also a large amount of laboratory glassware, and police say a large amount of the drug was found in a safe with a pistol and ammunition.

The detective said it was difficult to tell how long the laboratory had been there. It was very messy and drug-making equipment was in the bathroom, in a suitcase on the bed and through the lounge.

He said it was the second time chemicals used to make illegal drugs had been found at the Ascott Metropolis.

It was not uncommon for hotel rooms to be used as drug laboratories, he said. Police had alerted hotel managers to things that they should watch out for, such as people paying for rooms by cash, the smell of chemicals when drugs were being cooked, and yellow stains on surfaces caused by chemicals.

Police have made a major effort in recent years to catch dealers and manufacturers of the drug P, believed to fuel violent crime and social problems.

Last year, a record 200 methamphetamine laboratories were uncovered nationwide - 33 times more than were found five years ago.

The Ascott Metropolis Hotel's manager, Nicole Lawson, said the hotel had no responsibility for the apartment, as it was privately owned.

She said the property manager for the apartment was real estate company Bayleys, which last night could not be contacted.

Herald Feature: The P epidemic

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