Drug ring back to court

Members of a designer drug syndicate shut down by a joint customs and police operation will be back in court in a fortnight.

Eight men and seven women were arrested last week on charges including importing, selling and possessing Class B and C drugs, following 14 raids on properties in Auckland and Napier.

Some were also charged with being part of an organised criminal group.

Among those arrested was 46-year-old Craig Williams and 53-year-old Michael Gerard Hall who both live in the central city.

A Coatesville man is alleged to have run the ring while Williams was known by the others as "the banker".

A 59-year-old Greenlane man is also facing charges.

Police seized several thousand pills, 3kg of ingredients to make drugs, $100,000 cash and four vehicles during the raids.

The majority of the pills seized are analogues of other drugs such as MDMA, which is commonly known as ecstasy.

Analogues are drugs that mimic the effects of common street drugs but have an altered chemical structure to avoid being classed as illegal.

The ring is believed to have brought the drugs to New Zealand in powder form from China and Singapore.

Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Cahill from the Organised and Financial Crime Agency says the drug dealing involved multi-million dollar sales, with one dealer buying $4.5m worth of pills from a New Zealand importer.

He says the operation is a major concern throughout New Zealand with the increased supply of ecstasy-type pills.

“There is a lot of ignorance among users of these drugs about what the pills contain and the level of danger associated with using them.

"This activity will have an impact on the supply of harmful drugs that are regularly leading to hospital admissions,” he says.

Williams has been remanded in custody after police opposed his bail.

He is alleged to have sent information via encrypted emails and used military grade encryption technology by phone and Skype to communicate with people overseas.

Williams is also said to have advised the others on laundering money and setting up off-shore accounts.

Those with name suppression, including the Greenlane man, will re-appear in the Auckland District Court on Friday to argue to have their names kept secret.

The whole group will reappear on September 18.

Mr Cahill says the operation has been terminated and no further arrests are expected at this point.

Fairfax NZ

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