New Zealand - Article: 2006 was a bumper year for the drug trade (NZ)

Discussion in 'Drug Policy Reform & Narco Politics' started by ~lostgurl~, Jan 7, 2007.

  1. ~lostgurl~

    ~lostgurl~ Platinum Member & Advisor Donating Member

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    Dec 23, 2004
    from Australia
    Drug hauls signal a new chapter

    The Dominion Post
    6 January 2007

    2006 was a bumper year for the drug trade, with the crooks getting smarter, and authorities having to move fast to keep ahead. Emily Watt reports.

    IT CAME wrapped in plastic and hidden at the bottom of tins of apple-green paint: 95 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and 150kg of pseudoephedrine - the largest drug bust to date in New Zealand.
    Worth $135 million, the haul was enough for over four million "hits" - enough for every man, woman and child in the country.
    The May bust - codenamed Operation Major - was the result of months of police and customs work, involving international cooperation with Chinese and Hong Kong police.
    Police seized guns, $60,000 cash, and fake passports, and six were arrested: two New Zealanders, three Chinese and a Hong Kong national.

    It was, in many ways, the beginning of a new chapter for New Zealand police and customs officers in the war on drugs.
    The methamphetamine market, set up and dominated by local gangs, was being taken over by international syndicates.
    "It has really illustrated to us just how influential Asian crime gangs are," said Les Maxwell, analyst at the police national drug intelligence bureau. "We knew they were increasing in influence, but the termination of that particular investigation really opened our eyes up."

    It has been a bumper year for police and customs battling the drug trade. Methamphetamine seizures were more than twice total seizures for the previous four years, and seizures of pseudoephedrine (used to manufacture methamphetamine), cocaine, and GBL/fantasy were also at record highs.
    While earlier research and data had indicated the methamphetamine market may be stabilising, Operation Major proved the battle was far from over.
    "The trends at the moment really stagger us just how big the market is out there," Mr Maxwell said. "Things are moving so quickly now in the illicit drug scene. It just happens so quickly."

    Cannabis remains the most popular drug in New Zealand, with 15 per cent of New Zealanders estimated to use it.

    Cocaine seizures spiked this year and GBL (known as fantasy) seizures also more than quadrupled, after a large haul of 200 litres was found in Northland.

    Police also noticed lsd, hugely popular in the 1990s, has begun to make a comeback, with more than twice the number of tickets seized than last year.

    Mr Maxwell said enforcement agencies had disrupted some major international ecstasy rings. But although ecstasy seizures have dropped, police believe the market has stayed steady, but that importers are getting more clever at bringing it in.

    The record hauls are largely due to a small number of landmark investigations, and NDIB analyst Warren Richards said new trends suggest crooks are now bringing in larger quantities of the drugs, rather than more frequent smaller imports.
    The battlegrounds are also shifting with the explosion of Asian crime gangs into a market previously dominated by local motorcycle and ethnic-based gangs.
    "I don't want to underplay the outlaw motorcycle gangs and ethnic gangs, but (Asian gangs) are emerging and emerging very aggressively," Mr Maxwell said. Small domestic methamphetamine labs, known in America as "Mom and Pop" labs, traditionally run by ethnic gangs, are now being set up by Asians.
    Overseas in countries such as Canada and Fiji, they have set up huge industrial-sized labs, and authorities are on the lookout for the same trends here.

    The reasons why P - pure methamphetamine - is so popular, and devastating, in New Zealand are manifold.
    It is hugely lucrative: sold at $800 to $1000 per gram on the street, it fetches a price nearly double what it would in Australia.
    It is also much more pure than that sold overseas: between 60 to 80 per cent purity, compared with only 30 per cent often found across the Tasman. Mr Maxwell said this makes it more dangerous, more addictive, and more likely to contribute to serious offending.

    The NDIB does not know what proportion of drugs are intercepted. Mr Maxwell said if they stopped 20 per cent the pseudoephedrine entering the country, which might be optimistic, it would mean half a tonne of methamphetamine was being sold on the streets of New Zealand.
    Work continues around the country to halt the demand of drugs, and ameliorate their social costs, but from a customs and police point of view, nurturing international crime-fighting relationships will be the key to combating drugs. The Asian gangs remain the foe of the future, with well-established networks that have been operating in other countries for years.

    "The last three to four years have been pretty busy. We're able to conduct busts internationally and I think that's a key aspect and that's got to be the way we go in the future.
    "If we can stop it coming in, we can stop all those things that happen as a consequence of it coming in," Mr Maxwell said.
  2. ~lostgurl~

    ~lostgurl~ Platinum Member & Advisor Donating Member

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    Dec 23, 2004
    from Australia
    Artice:The Battle Against Drugs (NZ)


    The Dominion Post
    6 January 2007

    METHAMPHETAMINE Cost $800-$1000 a gram. In 2006, 116kg was seized, up from 16.5kg in 2005. Most was imported from China, but distribution and local manufacture is controlled by gangs. Local theft from pharmacies has waned as Asian gangs get supply from overseas. Significant seizures in 2006: Operation Major, in May, netted 95kg hidden in paint tins imported from China; Operation Fiona, in January, 8.1kg of crystal meth hidden in water filters destined for a Wellington address; Operation Pulse, in September, 5kg of methamphetamine hidden in ceramic picture frames being carried by two passengers travelling on Canadian passports.

    PSEUDOEPHEDRINE In 2006, 2.2 million tablets were seized, up from 1.9 million in 2004 This could be used to manufacture 130-140kg of methamphetamine.
    Seizures used to be mostly from domestically sourced tablets, but there is a trend toward larger amounts hidden in commercial ships. "The way to kill this problem is to stop it offshore," says Les Maxwell, analyst at the police national drug intelligence bureau.
    Significant seizures in 2006: Operation Major, in May, 150kg of pseudoephedrine concealed in sacks described as `mortar'; in June, 3.38kg from China found by a drug detector dog in tubing of floor mops; in July, 21.55kg hidden in a shipment of computer monitors; in October, 11kg hidden in the soles of jandals.

    CANNABIS During the 2005-2006 year, more than 500kg of cannabis and 140,000 plants were seized in New Zealand. Fifteen per cent of New Zealanders are believed to be users. "We should never underestimate cannabis. This is our most widely used illicit drug in New Zealand," Mr Maxwell said.
    Most is grown locally, and new hydroponic and cloning techniques also increase the active THC content, making the drug stronger.
    Police have also found links with methamphetamine labs if they investigate cannabis, it can lead them to P.

    COCAINE Cost: $300-$500 a gram.
    In 2006, 30.5kg was seized, up from 7kg in 2005. The vast majority (29.8kg) of seized cocaine is destined for Australia.
    Demand here could be hidden because it is a drug favoured by wealthier people who tend to be more discreet.
    "There's always a risk of seepage (into the New Zealand market)," Mr Maxwell said.
    Significant seizures in 2006: In Operation Limpet, in June, customs divers found more than 18.6kg of cocaine hidden in an attachment to the hull of the boat MV Tampa, which had arrived in South America; in October, 8.7kg was found attached to the sister ship MV Taonga.

    MDMA/ecstasyCost: $60-80 a tablet. In 2006, 7500 tablets were seized.
    Police have shut down a number of international groups, including Israeli groups that had a global stronghold in 2002-04. Seizures have dropped considerably. But that does not indicate that MDMA is going away, Mr Maxwell says. "It's still there, we know it's still there, and while there have been those successes in terms of these syndicates that have been disrupted, it's the Asian group that have proven able to be the fly in the ointment."
    Significant seizures in 2006: In Operation Clark, in October, 2887 ecstasy tablets were found in a package sent from Britain to a Timaru address.

    HEROIN Cost: $1000 a gram. In 2006, 11.04 grams was seized, down from 1.5kg in 2003.
    Heroin is also manufactured in New Zealand using morphine sulphate tablets.
    Small-scale and infrequent use of poppy seeds is also found.
    Police believe a small, aging user group and the success of the methadone programme means there is not a huge demand.

    LSD Cost: $30-$40 a ticket. In 2006, 2821 tickets were seized, up from 1310 in 2005. Popular in the 1990s, lsd use dropped in the early 2000s, but Mr Maxwell says it is beginning to make a comeback. On little stamps, or tabs, it is easy to conceal and difficult to detect. "There seems to be a resurgence at the moment. We're not sure what that means," Mr Maxwell says.

    GBL/FANTASY Cost: $5-$10 a millilitre (diluted). In 2006, 203 litres was seized, up from 31.6 litres in 2005. GBL, or fantasy, has been classified as a class B controlled drug only since 2004. It is used as a recreational and in some cases as a `date rape' drug.
    Mr Maxwell said it seemed to be less available at the moment. "I call this one of our successes as well."
    Significant seizure in 2006: In January, a 200-litre drum was intercepted that had been sent from Japan to a Northland address. At subsequent searches, police found crystal methamphetamine and components of a clandestine drug laboratory.

    KHAT Cost: $100-$200 for a 100g bag. In 2006, 42.5kg was seized, up from 38kg in 2005 and 27kg in 2004.
    Popular with African communities, Khat (pronounced kot) is a class C controlled drug, usually imported from Australia. It has methamphetamine-like properties when chewed, brewed as tea, or smoked. Significant seizures in 2006: In December, Hamilton detectives found 10kg in two houses, believed to be imported, and with the street value of $10,000 to $20,000.
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