Contraband - NZ Customs


High summer highs

High summer highs

This summer has seen the highest ever drugs intercepts at the border – 749 seizures between December and February, compared to 662 the previous summer. Methamphetamine and its precursors topped the list in terms of volume, though a wide variety of other drugs also met the hit list.

There were 22 methamphetamine seizures totalling almost 35kg, worth up to $35 million, and 103 individual imports of precursors totalling about 157.5kg. This amount of precursors could have manufactured up to 44.6kg of methamphetamine worth up to $44.6 million.

Chief Customs Officer Brendan (Colonel) O’Carroll’s air cargo team in Auckland accounted for over 90 seizures. He provided some insight on their work during this successful period.

“The biggest seizure was 22kg methamphetamine sent just before Christmas, but there were many, many more. We were doing two to three intercepts a day – drugs were just literally flying in one after another. Things slowed slightly in February, but have ramped up again.

“The concealments were vast, but there were also similar patterns with some criminals trying the same thing over and over again. But because officers were so accustomed, their sharp eyes saw the discrepancies and several packages were straight giveaways.

“We also got quite used to certain precursors, which have quite a distinctive smell. We wear protective gear of course but sometimes, we could smell it even before opening the package. It was as if we’d turned into drug dogs!” Colonel says.

“Of course, we had non-drugs seizures too – dog collars, fakes, weapons, tobacco etc. As passengers were flying in and out at record-levels too, we were also helping at the airport.  So it was an extremely busy time for us, but officers just got on with it. This makes me very proud – we’re all paid to find drugs but they went beyond the call of duty. It was incredible.”

Customs has a multi-layered, intelligence-based and risk-based approach to targeting drugs. All incoming passengers and goods are assessed, and most packages selected for detailed examination have been pre-identified through profiling and targeting. 

Most other drug seizures were smaller volumes, but ranged in variety – 130 seizures of class c analogues such as LSD or ecstasy mimics, 180 seizures of class b, Class C and prescription medicines, 120 seizures of cannabis products, 65 ecstasy seizures, 15 cocaine seizures, and the more uncommon opium, khat, morphine, magic mushrooms etc.

These smaller quantities arrived mainly via mail, so were perhaps for personal use – bought online from illegal trading websites such as Silk Road, or popped in the mail as a gift (yes that happens, too). Regardless of drug type or volume, it was all seized and destroyed.

While this focuses on summer’s stats that were exceptionally high, this is what Customs officers do every day. They work with passion and commitment to protect the border, and through that – the people in our communities. These are some results; their work carries on.