Drug money laundered via tractors

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012

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A group of alleged meth dealers busted in a North Island sting laundered their money through buying tractors, diggers and quad bikes, police say.

The syndicate also hid piles of cash in undergrowth across the farm, where some of the accused lived, uncovered in police raids this week along with the farm equipment and drug paraphernalia.

Nine people from Northland and Auckland were arrested in the operation, with a total of $2 million in assets seized, including more than $150,000 in cash and $300,000 of methamphetamine.

Detective Sergeant John Sowter, of the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ), said police had been monitoring the group for some time, but in the end finding the cash was "just lucky".

"We had an idea it was there through intercepted communications but didn't know exactly where," he said.

An 18-person search team was brought in to search the property and managed to locate the money, and other items hidden off tracks through bush on, the farms near Kaitaia.

Sowter said the raids were "difficult" as the property was isolated with poor access, but the team were successful in the end.

Police seized two farms in the Far North and a property in Red Beach, Auckland. The range of vehicles seized included quad bikes, diggers and tractors as well as other farm equipment.

Sowter said police believed the group were laundering money through the equipment - some of which was brand new.

The nine arrested are facing multiple charges of manufacturing methamphetamine, supply of methamphetamine, participating in an organised criminal group and money laundering.

Sowter said the group was alleged to have been supplying methamphetamine to the upper North Island, Auckland, Napier and as far south as Wellington.

OFCANZ staff worked with police in Napier and the Far North in the operation.

"It is a good result and the culmination of some hard work by OFCANZ and police investigators," he said.

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- Auckland Now

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