New Zealand authorities have recovered 3.2 tonnes of cocaine, worth more than $300 million, found floating in the Pacific Ocean and believed to be bound for Australia.
Police said the haul of 81 bales, which was drifting hundreds of kilometres northwest of New Zealand, was recovered in a joint operation with the New Zealand Customs Service and Defence Force acting on intelligence from the Five Eyes alliance, which also includes Australia, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
“This is the largest find of illicit drugs by New Zealand’s agencies by some margin,” said Commissioner of New Zealand Police Andrew Coster.
Officials believe the drugs were dropped at a “floating transit point” in the Pacific Ocean where they would have been picked up and taken to Australia.
“We believe it was destined for Australia, where it would have been enough to service the market for one year,” Coster said.
“It is more than New Zealand would use in 30 years.”
A police photo showed the massive haul was bound by netting and covered in yellow floats. Some of the bales had a Batman symbol on them, with the packages of cocaine inside labelled with what appeared to be a print of a four-leaf clover.
The individual packages of drugs on display. They each have a white sticker showing a black four leafed clover. A police officer is leaning across to arrange the packages. They are wearing black gloves. There is a large measuring tape in front and a sign reading ‘Operation Hydros. Exhibit 1.1’
New Zealand police say the haul was probably enough to feed the Australian drug market for a year [New Zealand Defence Force via AFP]
Coster described the bust as a “huge result” for police in both New Zealand and Australia.
“There is no doubt this discovery lands a major financial blow right from the South American producers through to the distributors of this product,” he added.
Officials said it was too early to say where the drugs came from.