Police have seized up to $5 million worth of drugs in a major sting which also resulted in the arrest of 10 people.

The operation targeted an international drug syndicate, which was alleged to have imported more than a tonne of methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine and ephedrine into New Zealand over a three-month period.

Multiple firearms, including a military-style rifle, and high-end vehicles were also seized.

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Ten people aged between 28 and 57 were arrested in the operation, dubbed Operation Mystic, who were facing charges including money laundering and participating in an organised crime group.

They include New Zealand, Chilean, Italian, Brazilian and Filipino nationals.

A 31-year-old Kiwi man was arrested at the border in Italy on February 2 - he had allegedly been operating overseas since 2016.

A military style rifle was among the firearms seized by police. Photo / Supplied
A military style rifle was among the firearms seized by police. Photo / Supplied

He had allegedly been sending drugs to associates back here via multiple countries, using a variety of different ways to conceal the drugs.

New Zealand Police said they had started the formal extradition process to bring the man back to the country, where he would face 94 charges on serious drug dealing, money laundering and participating in an organised criminal group.

The quantity of drugs allegedly imported by the syndicate is significant, National Organised Crime Group's Detective Inspector Paul Newman said.

"New Zealanders are using about 13kg of methamphetamine a week according to recent wastewater analysis, so a tonne of methamphetamine or its precursor ephedrine equates to more than a year's worth of national consumption," he said.

"By arresting and stopping this syndicate's key player, along with his alleged associates, it will go a long way to reducing the amount of this drug being imported into New Zealand, and preventing the harm it causes to our communities."


Six of the Kiwi man's alleged associates living in New Zealand had also been arrested, with search warrants carried out throughout the Auckland region last week.

In total, 11 properties were searched in Auckland central, Henderson, Wairau Valley, West Harbour, Takanini, Waterview and Beach Haven.

Detective Inspector Paul Newman. Photo / Nick Reed
Detective Inspector Paul Newman. Photo / Nick Reed

Three other people also alleged to be part of the syndicate were arrested late last year.

Removing drugs from circulation was only part of the solution, Detective Inspector Paul Newman said.

"We will strip the assets of those who import and deal drugs," he said.

"Our reach offshore through our law enforcement partners and our own New Zealand Police liaison network means we will find these criminals and they will be held to account."


Nine people had appeared in the Auckland District Court and were expected to reappear in the coming months.

The investigation remained ongoing and police could not rule out the possibility of further seizures and arrests.

Police Minister says arrested will make 'significant impact'

The police operation which smashed a major trans-national drug smuggling ring would make a significant impact in New Zealand, the Police Minister says.

Organised crime in New Zealand was hurting communities and the police were committed to dismantle networks, Stuart Nash said.

"White-collar professionals are driving offending by gangs who are involved in the distribution of the drugs," he said.

"Our response to organised crime requires a coordinated approach using all of the tools at our disposal."


The operation had stopped more than one year's worth of methamphetamine consumption, Nash added.