Eight arrested in big drug bust in Wanaka
Eight people have been arrested after police say they found "large- scale dealings" of LSD and ecstasy in the Wanaka area following an undercover operation.
Four people appeared in the Queenstown District Court yesterday after search warrants were executed at 10 houses yesterday and on Sunday in Wanaka and Luggate.
Daniel Miller, 29, plasterer, Oscar Jimmy Gold Arlidge, 28, Daimon Jon Schwalger, 41, and Campbell Blair Smith, 28, appeared before Judge David Holderness charged with drug- dealing including cannabis, LSD and ecstasy-related offending on dates between August and October.
Miller faced 28 charges: 17 counts of offering to sell cannabis, two charges of offering to sell MDMA propane, jointly conspiring to procure MDMA propane, conspiring to sell or offer to sell a class C drug, offering to supply LSD, two charges of jointly conspiring with Arlidge to supply or offer to supply class B drugs, three charges of offering to supply MDMA propane and offering to supply LSD.
He was remanded in custody without plea.
Arlidge was charged with two counts of jointly conspiring with Miller to offer or supply a class B drug, five charges of supplying LSD, three charges of offering to supply LSD, three charges of offering to supply MDMA propane, supplying MDMA propane and possession of LSD.
He was remanded in custody without plea.
Schwalger was charged with offering to supply a class B controlled drug on August 10 and supplying MDMA propane on September 13 and remanded on bail to December 16.
Smith, 28, faces three charges, supplying LSD and two charges of supplying ecstasy or an ecstasy analogue between August 31 and September 26.
He was remanded in custody overnight until today to allow police in Wanaka to verify a bail address.
The judge consented to a remand on bail pending verification of the address.
All four defendants were expected to appear in the Queenstown District Court on December 16.
At a media conference at the Wanaka Police Station yesterday, Southern District Organised Crime Squad Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis said the undercover operation, dubbed Operation Viking, had been running since July and included several undercover officers.
Police seized hundreds of tabs of LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and cannabis in the operation targeting the flow of class A and B drugs into the area.
About $13,000 in cash was also seized and several indoor and outdoor cannabis growing operations were found.
The offenders were aged between 19 and 49 years and face up to 100 drug charges.
As part of the operation police identified several people working in Wanaka during the ski season who they believe had been dealing in class A and B drugs.
However, some of those involved in the "loose ring" had been living in the area for over 18 years.
It was believed the drugs were being imported from overseas but police were unsure how.
One of the men arrested had allegedly been selling a significant amount more of the drugs than the others.
"There is significant evidence that these drugs are causing serious harm in our local communities. We know of people who, as a result of taking these kinds of drugs, have suffered serious mental health issues, to the point of wanting to take their own lives," Mr Inglis said.
"These drugs are destined not only for the young people who are working in the ski or adventure sports industries, or participating in the rave scene, they are being used and abused by all social groups across our community.
"The alleged offenders involved choose to put their big lifestyle first, with no regard for the community harm and the wreckage that these drugs create in people's lives," he said.
The arrests and charges were the culmination of several months work by the Otago Rural CIB staff supported by the Southern District Organised Crime Squad.
The bust was not related to a Road Knights gang drug operation where 17 people from Invercargill, Alexandra, Roxburgh and Moa Creek were arrested last week.
It was likely further arrests would be made and anyone with information was urged to contact the Wanaka police.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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