Two Poles extradited from Venezuela and Germany now face a High Court jury trial alongside a Russian sailor who was arrested on board a container ship in Nelson.
Ryszard Wilk, a 57-year-old Polish national, and Russian man Aleksandr Cherushev stood together in an Auckland courtroom on Wednesdayfor the first time after they both disappeared from New Zealand's shores nearly three years ago.
They, and fellow Polish man Patryk Lukasik, are accused of being part of a wider international conspiracy led by a mystery West African mastermind, who was allegedly orchestrating the importation of drugs into New Zealand.
The trio now all face a trial together in July.
Wilk had left New Zealand in April 2017 but soon found himself on Interpol's most wanted list.
He was eventually arrested last July in the South American city of Maiquetía before spending more than a year in a Venezuelan prison.
After months of negotiations, the now gaunt-looking and bearded man was extradited to New Zealand Police in October with the help of the special tactics group on commercial flights.
Wilk faces seven charges over allegations of importing and supplying cocaine, money laundering and conspiracy.
The 42-year-old Lukasik, meanwhile, was arrested in Germany before being extradited back to New Zealand earlier this year over money laundering and drug importation charges.
In September this year, police nabbed Cherushev at Nelson's port after he arrived on the container ship Seatrade Red.
The Russian is charged with importing and supplying cocaine.
All three men have pleaded not guilty to their charges and are remanded in custody.
Involving at least 10 people, law enforcement investigations into the alleged conspiracy stretched from Auckland and Tauranga to Europe and South America.
Last summer, the Herald revealed details of the police investigation into the group, code-named Operation Moa, which included phone taps, a covert surveillance team at Auckland's Aotea Square, and $130,000 of buried cash at Auckland's Bastion Pt.
The police's allegations stem from a meeting between Wilk, his son Ralph and Cherushev over $1.2 million of cocaine in September 2016.
The cocaine was allegedly smuggled into New Zealand from South America by Cherushev on board the food vessel Discovery Bay.
Lukasik is accused of operating as the point of contact between the trio, and allegedly advised the Wilks of the location of the container ship in the Pacific Ocean.
Wilk also allegedly attempted to arrange further drug drops at the direction of the West African man, who was using a telephone number with a prefix for Ecuador, court documents obtained by the Herald read.
Wilk's son, meanwhile, stayed in New Zealand and was arrested in mid-2017.
He was due to go to trial in September last year alongside Auckland builder Bryan Williams and IT engineer Mohammed Khan.
However, all three pleaded guilty at the eleventh hour.
Ralph Wilk was sentenced to nine years and four months' imprisonment on two representative charges for supplying a Class A drug and money laundering.
Williams and Khan were both sentenced to home detention.
A woman who worked at a money remittance company on Queen St, Qiannan (Christina) Tang, was also charged with money laundering.
In June, a High Court jury found her guilty of one charge but acquitted her on a remaining eight counts.
She was later discharged without conviction.