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Police on high after picking a drug cartel's pockets

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    Police say they have made a major hit on organised crime in Auckland by busting a financial exchange business that was laundering money.

    The drug ring had links to organised crime in China, Taiwan and South Korea, and imported and distributed large quantities of methamphetamine, Detective Inspector Steve Wood said.

    The bust in central Auckland yesterday was significant because it hit what mattered most to criminals – the money.

    "These people are in it for the money, for the greed, and if we attack the money and the assets that's where we get the results and that's where we shut down networks," Mr Wood said.

    Police raided a financial exchange business in downtown Auckland as part of Operation Acacia, a year-long operation targeting Asian organised crime which last week saw the seizure of $5 million of methamphetamine and firearms.

    "Police believe the financial firm has assisted the drug ring to launder money by transferring large amounts of drug money through various accounts and moving it internationally to disguise its origin," Mr Wood said.

    A 26-year-old company director and a 27-year-old finance manager have been charged with laundering $1.9 million.

    One of the men, Xiang Zhang, the finance manager, appeared in Auckland District Court yesterday charged with money laundering. The other man is understood to be in China.

    Organised and Financial Crime Agency director Malcolm Burgess said police were "not pessimistic" about having the man extradited.

    "We've got his money and his house," Mr Burgess said, referring to police seizures.

    Assets seized included a house valued at $2 million, two luxury vehicles and the financial firm's bank accounts. An estimated $40,000 in cash was also seized.

    Operation Acacia has resulted in 16 people being charged with drug dealing, and seizures of more than $400,000 in cash, $5.5 million worth of methamphetamine, $750,000 worth of the methamphetamine ingredient ContacNT and 21 illegal firearms.

    "We have sent a pretty clear message to crime networks in New Zealand this week," Mr Burgess said. "We are coming after you and we are not done until we have taken the money, assets and any other benefit you derive from crime."

    The bust was the agency's biggest in terms of drugs and money.

    The Dominion Post 07/22/2010
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