Jail for ecstasy ring trio
Police are "extremely satisfied" they have managed to close down a Queenstown drug syndicate with international connections.
Three of the seven men arrested as part of Operation Wing were jailed yesterday in the Invercargill District Court.
Operation Wing was a six-month undercover operation targeting dealers selling ecstasy, and uncovered the importing of drugs into Queenstown, mainly from Vancouver.
Police worked, via Interpol, with the Royal Mounted Police in Canada and the Australian Police on the operation.
It also involved New Zealand Customs and the Auckland and Dunedin dog squads and arrests were made in Queenstown, Oamaru, Dunedin and Christchurch.
Judge Brian Callaghan said in the Invercargill District Court yesterday it was believed drugs with a street value of up to $310,000 were brought into New Zealand during a three-month period between June and September 2009.
The drugs, which originated in Canada, were either sent by mail to people who allowed their addresses to be used, or brought in by human couriers, who swallowed pellets of ecstasy before their departure from Vancouver and excreted them once they arrived in Auckland.
Benjamin Robert Briggs (29), described as the ringleader of the New Zealand side of the operation, earlier admitted 10 charges, including importing, conspiring to import, producing and supplying ecstasy.
Mathew Charlton Lile (22) admitted four charges of importing and one charge of conspiring to import the drug, and Reuben Paul Aberdeen (26), who allowed his address to be used to send drugs to, admitted two charges of importing and one of possessing cannabis.
The three men were all Queenstown-based.
Detective Sergeant Grahme Bartlett, of Queenstown, said last night it was hard to measure the impact of the arrests on the drug culture in the resort.
"Sadly, you close down one [source], you are aware there will always be drugs out there."
"We are [however] extremely satisfied that one syndicate . . . has been totally closed down."
Two of the seven arrested were still to be sentenced in Oamaru and Christchurch courts.
The other two were sentenced last year in Dunedin, he said.
There were still people of interest relating to the syndicate in Australia and Vancouver "outside our reach at the moment", Det Sgt Bartlett said.
Judge Callaghan said that during a sophisticated police investigation, which began in September 2009, it was discovered Briggs, Lile and others were part of an international syndicate with links to Sydney, Bali and Vancouver.
They had a supplier in Canada and were involved in posting the drugs in CDs, record covers and maple syrup bottles to New Zealand addresses.
On occasions, the drug was brought in by human couriers, including Lile.
When Canadian authorities refused to allow drugs to be knowingly exported from the country, New Zealand police decided to end the operation and eight arrest warrants were issued on September 30, 2009, and executed in Queenstown, Oamaru, Dunedin and Christchurch.
Judge Callaghan said he believed Lile was a big part of the operation, even though he faced fewer charges than Briggs.
"It is clear to me that Mr Briggs decided to take a step up to the more serious offending - Lile was part of that," the judge said.
Lile had arranged the supplier in Canada and had travelled there.
But Briggs, who had also produced ecstasy, supplied it and offered to supply it, was more culpable, the judge said.
He sentenced Aberdeen to a total of two years', eight months' jail.
Briggs received four years', three months' jail and was ordered to forfeit $2500 in cash, while Lile was sentenced to a total of four years', five months' jail.
By Rebecca Fox on Thu, 18 Feb 2010
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