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New Zealand just found 3.5 tons of cocaine in the Pacific Ocean


New Zealand authorities have seized more than three tons of cocaine wrapped in 81 bales and cached on a floating transit point in the mid-Pacific, in the largest drug bust in the country’s history.

The cache, estimated at $315 million, is large enough to supply the Australian market for a year, and New Zealand’s for three decades, New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told reporters on Wednesday. The cocaine — which weighed 3.2 tons, or 3.5 tons in the United States — came from South America and was destined for Australia, police said.

The cocaine bundle was “set up in nets” with flotation devices. The design is not uncommon, Greg Williams, a senior detective with the New Zealand Police, told reporters. “There are multiple ways organized crime wants to get its product into our country,” Williams said. This includes flying drugs around on airplanes, mailing them, transporting them by sea, or hand-carrying them in suitcases. “And this is just one of those ways.”

The packages of cocaine were plastered with the Batman logo and images of a black four-leaf clover. The symbols represent logos of the drug companies, Williams said.

“Those are their trademark logos,” he said. “In the underworld it’s like ‘here’s my sign, you can trust me.'”

New Zealand authorities declined to disclose operational details of the seizure, including how they found the drugs. But they said New Zealand partners of the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group — which also includes agencies from Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States — have provided assistance. No arrests have been made, police said.

The New Zealand Navy and Customs Service worked with the country’s police force to seize the drugs and send them on a six-day journey back to New Zealand where they will be incinerated. The discovery was made as part of Operation Hydros, which began in December and aims to “monitor the movements of suspicious vessels,” New Zealand Police said in a press release.

How do illegal drugs get into remote Australia? Please contact the flight attendants.

The previous largest illegal drug discovery in the country came in March last year when authorities seized a 700 kilogram or 1,540 pound shipment of cocaine, estimated to be worth $177 million. Two weeks earlier, officials had found 613 kilograms or about 1,350 pounds of methamphetamine, worth an estimated $155 million.

According to the NZ Drug Foundation, a charitable organization based in Wellington, alcohol and tobacco are the drugs that cause the most harm to the general public in New Zealand. Among the illicit drugs, cannabis and meth are the most commonly seized by police, while the amount of MDMA or ecstasy seized by police has more than doubled since 2017, the report said. Cocaine, on the other hand, is consumed in “low amounts” in New Zealand compared to other countries, the report said.

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