The umbrella stands looked like umbrella stands.
Concrete blocks, the sort you keep under the outdoor table to easily slot in the umbrella on a sunny day.
The manifest for the ship Cap Cleveland declared the 16 umbrella stands as "outdoor leisure products", with 16 umbrellas for good measure, jumbled among cheap furniture, children's slides and swings, tents and beach chairs.
The jumble of 67 packages weighing a total of 1437kg, valued at just $3165.
A cluttered collection of odds and ends you might find at a garage sale, or secondhand store, and just as difficult to sort through.
Thousands of freight containers go through the Ports of Auckland each day.
This one on August 14, 2017 from Guangdong in China looked as ordinary as any other.
But profiling by Customs flagged the shipment as worthy of a closer look.
The x-ray machine confirmed the suspicion of the intelligence officers, picking up some inconsistencies in solid mass of the umbrella stands.
Once tested for drugs, the concrete blocks gave a positive result for methamphetamine.
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There were no hidden cavities, or secret compartments.
The meth had been cunningly mixed with gypsum, a plaster or chalk like substance, then cast into the shape of umbrella stands.
Once safely through border controls, the Class-A drug could be easily extracted by dissolving in water.
It was a good catch by Customs: an estimated 100kg haul of methamphetamine disguised in a fashion not seen before in New Zealand.
The seizure also presented a chance to find answers to some serious questions and a joint investigation with police was quickly convened.
In just a few short days, Operation Abseil unravelled not only the ingenious concrete concealment but also a new method of how international crime groups were operating in New Zealand.
Then, intelligence about the Hong Kong-based syndicate - which imported a massive 267kg of methamphetamine in three shipments - led to more arrests in Australia and Japan.
But Operation Abseil did not have much to start with.
Just a name.
The umbrella stands were destined for a company listed on the North Shore called Best Budget International.
The sole shareholder was Ricky Leung, a Hong Kong national who registered the company in a short trip to New Zealand the previous year.
Detectives from the National Organised Crime Group decided the first step was to conduct a "controlled delivery"; a sting tactic where the drugs are delivered under close surveillance.
Usually, most or all of the drugs are swapped with a placebo substance, but this was not possible given the clever concealment.
The consignment was delivered to a lock-up storage facility in Onehunga.
Ricky Leung was not there to meet the goods.
In fact, he was not even in the country.
The drug squad prepared themselves should he return.
A High Court judge signed a warrant to allow police to listen to his telephone communications, while a border alert was placed against his name.
It was a matter of watching and waiting.
A month later, September 2017, three tourists from Hong Kong stepped off flight CX197 and into Auckland International Airport.
The purported holidaymakers ignored the sights and sounds of their new city.
Instead, the trio went straight to Storage King in Glenfield to sign a lease on a unit.
A few days later, they signed a rental agreement for a house in Manurewa.
Chiu Tai Fi, 58, and married couple Wong Wai Fat, 67, and Li Hao, 43, were not yet on the police radar - but that was about to change.
The next day, September 16, 2017, Ricky Leung came back.
As soon as he walked through the arrival hall at Auckland International Airport, undercover officers were on his tail.
They watched as he purchased a SIM card from a mobile phone kiosk.
As soon as Leung left, detectives spoke to the staff member who sold the card and obtained his new phone number.
Now they could listen to his phone conversations.
Leung checked in to the Auckland City Backpackers on Queen St and waited for a phone call.
While the police kept tabs on Leung, Wong and Li (the married couple) went shopping.
No trinkets or treasures to remind them of their trip to the far side of the planet.
Instead the pair visited a specialist refrigeration store in Greenlane.
Security camera footage shows Li pointing out a vacuum pump; Wong told the assistant he needed it to power an airbrush to thin paint for "artwork he was doing".
At midday, just a few hours after Leung arrived in Auckland, Chiu called him.
Just before 3pm, the duo visited the Storage King facility in Grey Lynn.
Wong and Li kept shopping. They snaffled a Samsung fridge, a big one with double doors, for $1800 cash at Noel Leeming in Manukau.
Three new helpers - Tan Zhizhao, 61, Leung Chi, 37, and Yiu Chiang, 56, - arrived from Hong Kong the next day.
At 11.41am, Li and Wong went to Bunnings Warehouse to pick up some DIY hand tools.
Twenty minutes later, Ricky Leung received a phone call from Chiu Tai Fi. They spoke a few times during the day and arranged to meet later.
The newcomers, Tan and Chiang, met Li at a cooking ware shop in "Chinatown" in Botany Downs at 4.40pm.
Li left and was replaced by Chiu a few minutes later. The trio left with a shopping trolley full of large cook pots and three induction cooking plates.
Wong joined them outside and helped load the gear into the Toyota Estima rental van.
The foursome - Chiang, Chiu, Tan and Wong - went back to Bunnings to tick a few more items off the shopping list.
Boxes of rubber gloves, plastic buckets, duct tape, hammers, chisels, wrecking bars, an Ozito multi mixer tool and an angle grinder.
All up, 50 items for $1199 paid in cash.
Ricky Leung and Chiu arranged to meet for breakfast.
Then they drove to Onehunga where the 16 umbrella stands were locked in a storage unit.
The pair managed to squeeze six into the Toyota Corolla, before Leung dropped Chiu back at the SkyCity hotel where he was staying.
Chiang jumped into the car and together they drove back to "Chinatown".
Surveillance teams watched as the six umbrella stands were taken out of the Corolla and stacked against a wall.
Ricky Leung drove away, while Chiang waited.
A few minutes later, the Toyota Estima arrived. Li sat in the car, while Chiang, Chiu, Wong, Chi Leung and Tan put the boxes in the boot and drove away.
The surveillance teams followed the Estima to the Manurewa house and watched them unload the six boxes.
Only Chiang stayed at the address to keep watch, the rest went back to Onehunga for the other 10 umbrella stands.
While the group loaded the remaining boxes into the Estima, Chiu received a phone call.
Something spooked him. He was observed telling the others to put the boxes back into the storage unit.
They left Onehunga and were followed back to SkyCity.
The police made their move outside the entrance to the casino, where all five were arrested.
A raid on the Manurewa home found it abandoned.
One of the six boxes had been opened: presumably Chiang figured something was wrong and called Chiu at the storage unit.
Police also found power tools, large pots and bowls, grinders and other equipment and the Samsung refrigerator.
"The material and equipment is all consistent with equipment required for the breaking up of the gypsum blocks, the extraction of the methamphetamine and then the reconstituting of the methamphetamine through re-crystallisation using the fridge," the police summary of facts states.
Finally, at 5pm, Ricky Leung and Chiang were arrested at the backpackers.
Seven accused drug smugglers were in custody, not saying much, but Operation Abseil was far from finished.
The next day, police searched the Storage King unit in Grey Lynn which Ricky Leung and Chiu visited three days ago.
There were 10 boxes inside; seven for outdoor umbrella stands identical to the 16 imported in the August 2017 shipment which set Operation Abseil in motion.
Customs records revealed they were imported a year earlier, September 2016, when Ricky Leung first visited New Zealand and set up Best Budget International.
Police also found a found a clothes drier, stained and streaked grey inside with residue of the gypsum concrete.
The working theory was the drier was used to help break up the umbrella stand.
There were also boxes of rubber gloves, face masks, masking tape, zip lock bags, measuring jugs, colander, kitchen sieves, and an assortment of hand and electric tools.
The investigation also uncovered something else; two other shipments were heading to Auckland.
The first arrived on October 13, 2017, when the Hamburg Aglaia docked at the port.
Inside the 750kg consignment was an industrial mineral crusher, a mineral flour mill, an industrial dehydration unit, an industrial drill and two vacuum pumps.
"These items all have application in the breaking down, grinding and processing of the gypsum material to extract the methamphetamine concealed within," the police summary of facts states.
Then, on October 22, 2017, another set of 17 "sunshade bases" identical to the earlier imports but slightly smaller in size.
An experiment by scientists at ESR showed how easy it was to extract the methamphetamine from the gypsum.
ESR found by simply grinding down the gypsum material and adding water, a methamphetamine base dissolved into and suspended within the liquid.
The water is then evaporated and methamphetamine crystals left behind.
By their calculations, ESR estimated 267kg of the Class-A drug was smuggled into the country in the three imports.
It's the second largest amount ever, by quite some distance, dwarfed only by the 500kg police accidentally stumbled across in Northland in 2016.
Sold by the conservative wholesale price of $200,000 a kilogram, the total is worth more than $50 million.
If this 267kg had been sold to methamphetamine addicts, based on a retail price of $500 a gram, it would have had worth $133m.
The Operation Abseil team, led by Detective Sergeant Mike Beal, continued to gather evidence including the damning CCTV footage which tracked the movements of the "tourists" around Auckland.
Ricky Leung and Wong were convicted of all three import charges, while the remaining five defendants were convicted of a combination of importation or possession for supply.
The seven are in custody to be sentenced for what are certain to be lengthy prison terms.
But they are waiting for a landmark Court of Appeal judgment which is likely to lead to a major shake-up of prison sentences for methamphetamine crimes.
The two-day hearing in April heard evidence and submissions urging a review of the sentencing guidelines established in the R v Fatu case.
Since 2005, the weight of the Class A drug has been the most important factor in sentencing individuals convicted of manufacturing, importing or supplying methamphetamine.
Depending of the quantity of methamphetamine, the guideline judgment established four bands – ranges with an upper and lower limit - of prison sentences.
Anything over 500g of methamphetamine is considered to be in the most serious Fatu band, with a minimum starting point of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life.
Only once someone is placed into one of the four bands is an individual's role - whether a lowly drug "mule" or kingpin at the top of the criminal organisation - taken into account by the judge.
These personal circumstances can move a defendant with the upper and lower limits of the band, but not between bands.
For those convicted in Operation Abseil, any changes to how methamphetamine sentences are calculated could significantly reduce the prison terms for those considered lower in the chain of command.
The police also gave evidence at the hearing which revealed new details about Operation Abseil and the evolving nature of how international criminal groups are targeting New Zealand.
Specialist "cells" of transnational organised crime syndicates have entered New Zealand, sold huge amounts of methamphetamine, then immediately shifted the profits offshore.
Police say 20 of these operational cells from Asia, North and South America, and Europe have been "dismantled" since January 2017.
While foreign criminals have smuggled methamphetamine - or the ingredients to make meth - into New Zealand for local criminals or gangs to sell for nearly 20 years, this is a new trend where they operate independently.
"Traditionally, most of this process has occurred offshore," said Detective Superintendent Greg Williams, in an affidavit to the Court of Appeal.
"Recently we have identified a trend of these transnational groups choosing to 'set up shop', as it were, in New Zealand to make use of their own supply lines, pricing structures, personnel and connections to international services."
Williams said Operation Abseil was a clear example of an entire "operational cell" travelling to New Zealand from China and Hong Kong, with different roles in landing the imports, then processing them to extract the methamphetamine.
He also revealed the success of Operation Abseil led to major raids on the same criminal group operating in Australia and Japan, which also have strong methamphetamine markets.
By July 2018, Australian police had seized 220 litres of liquid meth, 16kg of solid meth and 250kg of yoga mats impregnated with an unknown quantity of methamphetamine in Operation Sudwala.
The success of Operation Abseil also highlights how New Zealand is still gripped by meth addiction more than 20 years after the drug became popular.
Ten years ago, 100kg was a record bust for law enforcement. Now, it's almost routine.
But the price of a "point" of meth - around $100 for a 0.1g - is unchanged from a decade ago.
Some addicts who were interviewed for the Herald's Fighting the Demon documentary spent up to $1000 a week.
Tests on wastewater suggest New Zealanders spend $1.4m on meth every day.
But where P was once a party drug for the middle classes, in this second wave, its victims are most likely to be the poor.
In December, the landmark Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction report recommended more investment into treatment, urgently.
Rehab centres were swamped. One estimate said 100,000 more people a year could benefit from therapeutic help.
"The criminalisation of drug use has failed to reduce harm around the world," the report said. It recommended criminal sanctions for possession should be replaced with treatment instead.
Late last year, the Government introduced an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act, underwriting in law the police ability to send users for treatment rather than prosecution.
In the Wellbeing Budget released last month, $4m over four years was ringfenced to continue the Te Ara Oranga programme in Northland.
This is expected to help 500 people each year in the joint initiative where police work with health staff to guide methamphetamine users towards treatment and employment.
It comes as the Government pours an extra $1.9 billion into mental health and addiction, including $455m for frontline services.
This will include increased availability of counselling and group therapies in up to four regions; $200m of District Health Board capital investments for new and existing mental health and addiction facilities; and $128.3m over four years to expand mental health and Alcohol and Other Drug services for offenders.
Green Party mental health and drug law reform spokeswoman Chlöe Swarbrick said she had hoped Te Ara Oranga would be expanded nationwide, but the funding nonetheless represented progress.
"Sitting down with those who've found their way into and out of addiction and dependence on substances from synthetics to methamphetamine, it's evident that decades of lock 'em up rhetoric has cost lives."