A Brazilian man has been jailed for nearly eight years after attempting to smuggle 1.7kg of cocaine into New Zealand inside wooden ornaments.
Victor Da Cunha Bastos Filho, 46, was sentenced today in the Manukau District Court to seven years and eight months' imprisonment for importing a class A drug. He had earlier pleaded guilty.
He is one of now several Brazilians who have been caught attempting to bring drugs into the country.
Customs had arrested charged Filho following a baggage check at Auckland International Airport during August last year.
He was on a transit stopover from Chile en-route to Cambodia when he came to the attention of Customs officers.
A search of his suitcase, Customs said, found seven wooden art ornaments which were later revealed to contain a concealed white powder - cocaine.
Filho told Customs officers he purchased the wooden ornaments at a street market in Lima, the capital of Peru, and intended to give them to his wife as a gift on his return to Brazil.
The ornaments had 1.7kg of cocaine inside, worth an estimated $771,000 on the street.
Customs manager of passenger operations at Auckland Airport Peter Lewis said the sentence was a testament to the vigilant work of Customs officers, who had used all available information to improve profiling and identify high-risk passengers.
"This should send a strong message to those who think they can get away with smuggling into New Zealand," he said.
"Because this man has decided to take the risk, he now faces a lengthy jail term a long way from home, and a criminal conviction with his ability to travel internationally severely affected in the future."
The case comes after the Herald reported in March that Brazil's consulate in Auckland was telling its nationals they will serve only a couple of years in prison if caught smuggling drugs into New Zealand.
The claim was made during the sentencing of Brazilian man Marlon Batista De Macedo, who was arrested in similar circumstances to Filho last year with up to $1.68 million worth of cocaine in his suitcase.
He will serve at least half of his eight years and six months' prison sentence.