A Nigerian man living in Woodville has been arrested as part of an alleged multimillion-dollar drug ring.
The 35-year-old man, who has name suppression, was one of 10 people arrested during a five-week investigation that began when a 68-year-old Auckland man was last month caught returning to the country from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, with 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine.
Auckland Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid said the man had been recruited by expatriate Nigerian drug dealers and he made the trip thinking he was going to be given a large amount of money.
The drugs, hidden in two bags given to the man, had a street value of $1.5 million and were found by customs officers who profiled the man on his return at Auckland International Airport.
The find led to a five-week joint OFCANZ and NZ Customs Service investigation that identified the trafficking of methamphetamine on two further occasions, totalling over 1.2kg and valued at $1.2m, and the issuing of the search warrants.
The Woodville man was arrested on December 6. The other nine people arrested all resided in Auckland. Mr Schmid said he sent staff to Woodville from Auckland on Wednesday to search the man's home.
The man has already appeared in the Manakau District Court on three charges of importing a class A controlled drug, two charges of possession of a class A controlled drug and conspiracy to import a class A drug.
The other men arrested face a host of charges of a similar nature.
Mr Schmid said no distinctive leader of the group had emerged.
"No-one has stood out as such. They all knew each other; they all had their role to play. We know they had communications from Nigeria."
Earlier this year, Woodville woman Jolene Rose, 37, was jailed for 20 years with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years for a methamphetamine operation that conservatively grossed about $5m between mid-2008 and March 2012.
Rose supplied almost 8.5kg of methamphetamine around the North Island, while at the same time claiming a benefit, offering dominatrix and other prostitution services and even finding time for a small-scale arts and crafts operation.
A police search of the property on March 20 last year uncovered $764,830 cash, 4 grams of methamphetamine, 16 weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Her partner, whom she lived with, Sean Christiaan Murray, 43, played a lesser role in the drug dealing and was sentenced to 8 years in jail.
Mr Schmid said he did not know why the Nigerian man was living so far away from the rest of those arrested in the sting, but said he believed he had a partner and child in Woodville. The investigation demonstrated that the New Zealand drug market was being targeted by organised crime syndicates from all around the world, he said.
Woodville residents the Manawatu Standard spoke to yesterday had seen a Nigerian man in town, but were shocked to hear of his alleged involvement in organised crime.
Customs investigations manager Maurice O'Brien said the case should serve as a reminder that people travelling overseas should never carry luggage that didn't belong to them.
Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Pascoe, from the Auckland Financial Crime Unit, said once victims stop sending money they are often contacted by criminals pretending to be law enforcement officers.
"The scammers then advise that the victim's money has been recovered and that they should travel overseas to collect it. In this way the scammers continue to have influence over their victims."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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