Two people have been arrested for alleged money laundering following the seizure of cocaine worth $20 million in Tauranga last week.

Four men were initially arrested when the 46kg load of the drug - the largest single seizure of the drug in New Zealand - was found by police last Wednesday.

The seizure was the result of a five-month-long inquiry by Customs and police.

The two organisations joined forces to carry out investigative work and established that a cocaine shipment would be offloaded from a commercial ship near Tauranga.


"Customs commenced the operation after an investigation into smaller methamphetamine seizures, resulting in several arrests, identified persons of interest believed to be involved in smuggling and distributing Class-A drugs and money laundering," police said.

Police made the second lot of arrests in Auckland this morning, charging a 29-year-old man from Birkenhead with four counts of money laundering and a 35-year-old female with one charge of the offence.

They are both due to appear in Auckland District Court next week.

Police made the arrest while carrying out a search warrant in the North Shore suburb of Birkenhead this morning.

They also seized a 2017 Honda Civic, a motorbike, a stash of electronics including phones and laptops and several thousand dollars in cash, along with a money-counting machine.

Detective Superintendent Greg Williams, National Manager for Organised Crime Group said the arrests followed an investigation that uncovered a "sophisticated money-laundering operation".

"Police will continue to hold those to account who are responsible for the laundering of funds generated by the drug-dealing activities of criminals."

Williams said the offenders faced a maximum sentence of seven years' jail time.

The four men arrested last week were two Australians, a Croatian and a Serbian national.

Police carried out search warrants in Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and residential addresses in Auckland leading up to the arrests.

A further 5kg of cocaine and a kilo of methamphetamine was found at an Auckland address, along with a large amount of cash.