A Brazilian man has been arrested at Auckland Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle three kilos of cocaine into New Zealand in the lining of his suitcase.

Customs officers arrested the 38-year-old on Sunday after he arrived in Auckland from Chile. Officers questioned the man before searching his baggage and finding "inconsistencies", Customs said in a statement.

A drug identification device indicated there was cocaine present. Officers drilled into the suitcase lining and found the cocaine, worth up to $1.3 million.

The man appeared in the Manukau District Court this afternoon and remains in custody.

He was the seventh alleged drug courier to be arrested at Auckland Airport in the last three months, the airport's Customs manager of passenger operations Peter Lewis said.


The seven have arrived from Thailand, Chile, and Brazil, carrying more than 20kg of either methamphetamine or cocaine between them.

Yesterday's arrest follows a massive cocaine bust on November 1, when 46kg of the drug was found at a Tauranga address.

The $20m haul, which arrived on a commercial shipping vessel from Chile, was the biggest cocaine seizure in New Zealand history.

Customs officials believe the drug bust was a sign that international cartels are actively trying to infiltrate the New Zealand market, where cocaine commands a high price.

Lewis said it was not uncommon to find drug couriers trying to sneak through as legitimate travellers.

"This seizure is the result of thorough work by our frontline officers as well as those working behind the scenes to identify risk-travellers. As Customs gears up for increasing travel volumes over summer, we will be putting just as much focus on drug couriers."

Based on the New Zealand Drug Harm Index, the seven drug seizures at Auckland Airport have prevented around $25.7 million of additional harm to New Zealand communities.