The trip was planned to limit his chances of escape. An alleged international drug kingpin who left New Zealand more than 10 years ago has been extradited back from Europe to face criminal charges.

Rokas Karpavicius arrived at Auckland International Airport on Thursday escorted by two drug detectives who flew to Latvia and took him into custody.

He left New Zealand in 2001 but his name surfaced at a trial in the High Court at Auckland in 2010 where he was alleged to be the global kingpin of a drug and money-laundering syndicate.

The police case was that he smuggled drugs to underworld figures here in New Zealand.


Now 32, he was arrested late last year and taken into police custody in Latvia as he travelled to Turkey.

A "red notice" posted by Interpol had alerted Latvian authorities to the serious drugs charges he faced in New Zealand and the police successfully sought his extradition.

Two detectives from the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand flew to the capital Riga last week to bring Karpavicius back.

The wealthy and well-connected figure was considered an extreme flight risk. He was taken through Germany to London, then Hong Kong, before arriving in Auckland.

The trip was planned so the time spent in transit at each airport was as little as possible, to limit his chances of escape.

Authorities in those countries declined to allow the police to place Karpavicius ina holding cell at each airport.

That meant he could not be let out of their sight during the 30-hour trip.

That was intended to avoid a repeat of an embarrassing incident six years ago, when two Auckland detectives deporting a Polish drug dealer, Rafal Luczynski, lost him at Heathrow Airport in 2006.

Karpavicius appeared in Auckland District Court on Thursday to face charges of importing a Class-A drug, importing a Class-B drug and money laundering.

He was remanded in custody until his next appearance.

Rokas Karpavicius

Born in Lithuania

2001: Leaves New Zealand.

2010: Identified in a High Court trial for Operation Keyboard as the alleged mastermind smuggling drugs into New Zealand.

2011: Arrested in Latvia on an Interpol warrant.

2012: Extradited back to New Zealand to face Operation Keyboard charges.