Senior New Zealand police officers are in talks with their Turkish counterparts about sending back an alleged $100m gang kingpin to face charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.
Duax Hohepa Ngakuru was born in Rotorua but grew up in Sydney where he rose through the ranks of the Comancheros during a time of violent turf wars between rival gangs.
He left for Turkey alongside his close friend Hakan Ayik, dubbed the "Facebook gangster", when they believed Australian law enforcement were closing in on their alleged drug empire in 2009.
The pair are believed to have lived an international jet-setting lifestyle ever since and are alleged to sit at a roundtable of organised crime figures which control major drug smuggling routes around the world, including Australia and New Zealand.
The Weekend Herald can now reveal Ngakuru, now 42, has been the principal target in a covert police investigation in New Zealand since 2016, which later merged into the so-called "sting of the century" run by the FBI and Australian Federal Police.
The law enforcement agencies tricked alleged organised figures around the world into using Anom, an encrypted communication platform, on which they believed they could talk to each other freely.
In reality, Anom had been built by the FBI and the Australian Federal Police and the investigators were given backdoor access to millions of messages and photographs that criminal groups thought were impossible to intercept.
The incriminating communications were shared with 16 countries and Operation Trojan Shield was unveiled in June with more than 800 arrests and millions of dollars and tonnes of drugs seized.
This unprecedented treasure trove of intelligence included messages sent by Duax Ngakuru which dovetailed with an ongoing New Zealand police inquiry into an alleged drug dealing alliance between the Comancheros and members of the Waikato Mongrel Mob.
In those supposedly secret communications, Ngakuru called himself by several different aliases including "Negotiator", "Bullseye", "Chuck Norris", and "El Mito" (The Myth).
Law enforcement authorities suspect Ngakuru sent hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA into New Zealand dating back to 2016.
More than 1200 charges have been laid against 40 individuals in New Zealand, and documents obtained by the Weekend Herald can reveal new details of Ngakuru's alleged drug empire:
• His alleged "right-hand man" believed Ngakuru made more than $100m from drug dealing.
• Ngakuru is alleged to have close ties with Chinese and Middle Eastern crime syndicates, Mexican and South American cartels, and Australian motorcycle gangs.
• In one deal, they allegedly talked about importing 1 tonne of cocaine and several alleged attempts to smuggle more than 500kg of methamphetamine failed.
• Police were forced to seize nearly 140kg of meth in Rotorua in 2020 which risked blowing the investigation.
• Ngakuru boasted of having multiple "doors" - corrupt port, airport or postal workers - to allegedly get drugs into the country.
Ngakuru himself has now been charged in the Hamilton District Court with cocaine and methamphetamine conspiracy offences, as well as import and supply of Class A and B drugs, money laundering and participating in an organised criminal group.
New Zealand Police are seeking to extradite him from Turkey so that he can face trial here.
Detective Inspector Paul Newman confirmed that a warrant has been issued for Ngakuru's arrest and that Interpol have issued a "red notice" in case Ngakuru attempts to cross an international border.
"He was recently believed to be residing in Turkey and inquiries are continuing with the Turks to confirm this," Newman said in a written statement.
"We are hopeful that Mr Ngakuru will want to return to New Zealand voluntarily to answer the allegations against him, but if he doesn't there are legal remedies that can compel him to do so."
Australian police have also urged his friend Hakan Ayik to give himself up. As an influential member of the criminal fraternity, Ayik was targeted by undercover agents as someone who could help spread Anom by word of mouth and he unwittingly promoted the devices among his associates.
"He was one of the coordinators of this particular device, so he's essentially set up his own colleagues," AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw told media in June.
"Given the threat he faces, he's best off handing himself into us as soon as he can."
One of those alleged to have distributed Anom devices on Ayik's behalf was another New Zealander, Shane Ngakuru.
A cousin of Duax Ngakuru, he is believed to be living in Thailand and is wanted by the FBI as an alleged distributor of the Anom devices.
He allegedly received payments for the $2000 six-month subscription fees and was able to remotely delete and reset devices, as well as communicate with the administrators of the encrypted platform.
Anom was marketed as "designed by criminals for criminals" with, according to the FBI, the purpose of facilitating global drug trafficking and money laundering without being detected by law enforcement.