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Exclusive: Crack crime-fighting unit sent top-secret files to the very criminals they were investigating.
Top-secret police intelligence documents with details about confidential informants were accidentally sent by our elite organised crime-fighting agency to the criminals they were investigating.
The stunning bungle saw the information copied and widely circulated among gang and methamphetamine-producing circles and led to police taking emergency steps to protect those exposed by the blunder.
Last night, Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said the information had been mistakenly included in material sent to a lawyer acting for someone arrested in an investigation by the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of NZ (Ofcanz).
"Police deeply regret this mistake, which was the result of human error. Steps were taken to recover the information as soon as police were aware of the error.
"However, by this point it had been more widely circulated. Police also took other appropriate measures needed to prevent harm to any person arising from the mistake."
Mr Burgess said the mistake had led to changes in policy and training. He would not comment on the content of the information because it was so sensitive.
The Weekend Herald understands the intelligence information was not picked up by the defence lawyer but by the client, who also reviewed the disclosure material.
The Ofcanz material was obtained by the Weekend Herald from a source close to the criminal world. We had it reviewed by three senior lawyers, who described it as an extraordinary disclosure of sensitive material.
The file is focused on an Ofcanz operation targeting a gang involved in the methamphetamine trade. The Weekend Herald has chosen to not reveal the operation or the names of those involved in it.
We were told the file was being distributed in criminal circles to allow people to see whether any of the details in the documents exposed their own illegal operations to risk from police.
It includes lists of people being watched by police, mobile phone numbers covered by interception orders, car registration details and a raft of other information now being studied by criminals.
The information appears to be in three forms - direct intelligence from informants, intelligence gleaned from surveillance, and court applications by police for access to bank, vehicle registration and phone records.
The file has information which would identify confidential informants, using the acronym CHIS, which is police shorthand for "covert human intelligence source".
One entry gives a date and a named individual, saying the person was "hanging around CHIS again".
A "CHIS" was also identified on a particular date and place as dropping off a vehicle to a named individual. The acronym also appears in the document next to a series of names and associated numbers - possibly the key that matches identities to their "handles".
The claims of sources inside the police were also recorded: "Working for [station name] police. They definitely have someone on the inside. [Name] is always getting info from this person."