NZ navy sailors' crucial role in huge international heroin bust revealed
Two New Zealand navy sailors are being hailed as heroes for their roles in a major drug bust that seized an estimated $150 million worth of heroin in the Indian Ocean.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) says Leading Seaman Combat Specialists (LSCS) Hayden Newport and Dillon Dolman-Tuhou played a crucial part in the Australian navy's interception of a ship carrying 250kg of heroin last Wednesday.
A New Zealand air force P-3K2 Orion surveillance plane spotted the suspicious vessel off the coast of Africa, and tipped off the Australian navy frigate HMAS Arunta.
Newport and Dolman-Tuhou, who are working on board the Arunta, drove the two rigid hull inflatable boats that carried Australian sailors to board the trafficking ship.
"We monitored the suspect vessel and the actions of her crew, to ensure that they didn't throw out anything, while keeping a close eye on our boarding team," Dolman-Tuhou said.
Once the search was completed, the Kiwi sailors helped transfer the seized heroin to the Arunta, where it was destroyed.
Commander Cameron Steil, Arunta's Commanding Officer, praised Newport and Dolman-Tuhou for their roles aboard his ship.
"They're doing a good job and it keeps the Anzac tradition going in a very positive way."
The two sailors have been working on the Arunta since August, on a 12-month exchange.
$400M SEIZED IN TWO WEEKS
The Orion is part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), an international maritime coalition of 31 nations covering 8.2 million square km.
The Orion and a supporting detachment were sent to the Middle East in February to work as part of the CMF over the next year.
It was the second seizure of heroin prompted by the Orion in recent weeks.
Two weeks earlier, the Orion spotted two suspect vessels and tipped off the French navy, who intercepted the ships and found 400kg of heroin.
The CMF estimate the total value of the two seizures at $400m.
However, according to the UN 2014 Drug Survey the street value of 650kg of heroin in western or central Europe would be closer to $68m, although prices of drugs fluctuate wildly.
It is believed all of the captured drugs were bound for Africa and Europe.
"This is a fantastic result for the team, and highlights the NZDF's significant contribution to the multi-national effort to stop narcotics smuggling and disrupting funding lines for terrorist organisations," said Wing Commander DJ Hunt, who is leading the NZDF's maritime security operations in the Middle East, in a written release.
"To facilitate three major drug seizures from suspect vessels that we located and in such a short timeframe is a great testament to the investment made in training and operating an airborne surveillance and reconnaissance force."
Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said in a release that the success of the operations was due to the ability for NZDF staff to work as part of an international team.
"Results such as this affirm the NZDF's standing as a valuable CMF partner. More importantly, they bring a tangible benefit to communities, given the immense harm caused by illegal drugs."