Cocaine-accused Kiwis: Details released

By Hayden Donnell, APNZ

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About 5kg of cocaine was found in a Kiwi pair's cruise ship cabin. File photo / Thinkstock
About 5kg of cocaine was found in a Kiwi pair's cruise ship cabin. File photo / Thinkstock

A New Zealander rinsed suspected drug equipment in a sink as he fended off police and customs agents trying to search his cruise ship cabin, a US Department of Homeland Security affidavit says.

Tony Wilkinson, 42, and Kirstie Harris, 25, were arrested along with Australian man Ahmed Rachid, in an operation on board a P&O cruise liner docked at the Port of San Francisco, said US customs officials.

The search, carried out by a multi-agency taskforce on January 25, allegedly uncovered about 13 kilograms of cocaine, including 5.7 kilograms in a cabin shared by the Wilkinson and Harris.

An affidavit from Immigration and Customs enforcement agent Craig Hyatt reveals a criminal investigation into the discovery of seven kilograms of cocaine in Rachid's cabin led to the Kiwi pair's arrests.

Investigating officers decided to search their cabin after crew members told them about a recent "altercation" between Rachid and Harris, the affidavit said.

When they arrived, they found Wilkinson holding what appeared to be drug paraphernalia, it said.

"Wilkinson then attempted to shut the cabin door on the officers while simultaneously opening the cabin bathroom door temporarily blocking the main cabin door.

"Agents heard the bathroom faucet turn on and observed Wilkinson rinsing what appeared to be drug paraphernalia in the sink."

Mr Hyatt said both Wilkinson and Harris were detained and removed from the cabin.

Agents then found keys in a light fixture which opened a suitcase inside the cabin, the affidavit said.

"Upon opening the black Pelican case, officers and agents discovered several packages of an unknown substance which later field tested positive for cocaine."

Both Wilkinson and Harris were arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

A spokesman for the US. Attorney's Office in California said he would not comment on the ongoing case.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed it has offered consular assistance to the New Zealanders.

The MFAT spokesman would not say if they were in custody.

Wilkinson, Harris and Rachid were understood to have been aboard the Aurora during a world cruise and had arrived in San Francisco from Curacao, a Caribbean Island.

A P&O Cruises spokesman said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

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