Two men have been arrested after the suitcase of a man flying into New Zealand was found to contain 20 kilograms of methamphetamine - with an estimated street value of about $8 million - inside, Customs says.

The drug bust at Auckland Airport yesterday occurred after a 26-year-old "person of interest" was risk-profiled by Customs after he left New Zealand for the United States last Saturday and returned from from Los Angeles five days later, Customs investigations manager Bruce Berry said.

"A search of his small suitcase located 20kg of methamphetamine, worth an estimated street value of around NZ$8m. He faces life imprisonment for the importation and possession of a class A controlled drug."

Customs found this methamphetamine, combined weight 20kg, in a traveller's suitcase at Auckland Airport. Photo / Supplied
Customs found this methamphetamine, combined weight 20kg, in a traveller's suitcase at Auckland Airport. Photo / Supplied

Customs investigators, with help from police, carried out several search warrants in Auckland yesterday and today, resulting in the arrest of a 44-year-old man whom subsequent investigations had linked to the case, Berry said.

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The man faces a charge for the importation of a class A controlled drug. Both men are New Zealanders. Under alert level 3 restrictions NZ citizens are able to return but must self-isolate for 14 days upon returning.

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The foiled drug smuggling was a good example of the "brazen behaviour by some criminal syndicates trying to take advantage of the Covid-19 situation to undertake their illicit trade", Berry said.

"This should serve as a warning – Customs has continued its efforts to risk assess all passengers, cargo and craft as we would under normal circumstances.

"We know organised criminal groups are very agile in adapting their smuggling efforts to try and take advantage of any situation, but we remain as vigilant as ever as this seizure shows."

Documentary: New Zealand has tried and failed to fix its methamphetamine crisis for 20 years. Now the country is facing a second wave of the epidemic.

Anyone with suspicions about someone involved in drug smuggling can call either 0800 4 CUSTOMS (0800 428 786) in confidence, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously.