Fifth man sought in drugs seizure
Police are hunting for a fifth Brazilian man in connection with the seizure of up to $1 million of cocaine.
A shipment of the drug was found hidden inside two suitcases brought into the country by a passenger on a flight from South America, police said.
Customs uncovered the 2.5 kilogram stash during "normal border operations" at Auckland international airport on Friday, they said.
Four Brazilian men were arrested as part of an operation dubbed Grenoble.
Now a fifth is being sought.
Rodrigo Gerlach Rila, 43, had been living at a home on the North Shore in Auckland.
Police believe he is travelling in a white 1997 Toyota Lucida Estima light van with the registration BYE781.
They are appealing for information from the public as to Rila's whereabouts. People can contact Detective Hamish Wyllie on 021 191-0615.
Josue Da Conceicao, 36, Marcos Andre Barbosa, 35, and Joao Batista Da Silveira, 39, yesterday appeared in the Christchurch and Manukau district courts charged with the importation and possession of cocaine.
Thiago August De Oliveira, 31, is charged only with possession of cocaine. All the men were remanded in custody without plea.
It is understood police will allege Silveira is the man who brought the cocaine into New Zealand and Oliveira, who was living in Riccarton, had travelled to Auckland to bring the drugs south. He was arrested in Auckland on Sunday.
Conceicao and Barbosa were living with a New Zealand man and his partner at a home in Linwood, Christchurch.
Members of the armed offenders squad raided the property about 5.30pm on Monday.
The Kiwi couple were shocked to learn of their housemates' alleged offending.
"I opened the door and there were like six or seven cops there with machineguns pointed at me. [They said] 'don't move'," the man said.
Conceicao was dragged out of a room and arrested. Earlier, armed police had stopped a car in Gloucester St and arrested Barbosa, who was allegedly in possession of the cocaine.
Police seized items including a laptop, the man said.
"It sounded big-time to the point where they were like, this doesn't happen [very often] in New Zealand, this is pretty rare, and for the South Island this is like a first-case scenario."
Police told him: "‘Tell us everything you know because you don't want to be involved in this'," he said. "I was straight up with them that we had nothing to do with it."
The man said he was shocked to hear Barbosa was allegedly connected to the importation.
"Marcos is the most genuine guy you've ever met. He's really down to earth, super friendly."
Barbosa, a fitter-welder, had lived at the home a couple of years.
Conceicao had been staying there only a few weeks after travelling from Auckland.
A man who lived with Oliveira in Brockworth Pl, Riccarton, said his flatmate left home on Friday saying he was ''going to a party''. They only discovered he had been arrested on Monday evening.
''He's just a naive guy who's a few Weetbix short of a pack, easily lead by other people.''
Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid, from the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand, said the cocaine seized had a street value of up to $1 million.
In Christchurch District Court yesterday, Judge Jane Farish said Oliveira had already ''made admissions'' in relation to ''very serious offending''.
She denied him bail because: ''He's looking at a lengthy term of imprisonment so there's a real incentive for him to leave [New Zealand].''