Contraband - NZ Customs

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Op Mohawk cracks down criminal connections

Op Mohawk cracks criminal connections 

Major criminal syndicates operate in networks, but so do law enforcement agencies. The drug supply chain is international, and so are the enforcement links that target the criminals involved – the suppliers (overseas), importers (border), and distributors (domestic). 

Operation Mohawk started in April 2014 after Customs seized two imports of ephedrine – a precursor to methamphetamine – weighing around 20 kilograms. More imports were identified and connected to people suspected of importing and distributing the drugs.

Throughout the operation, eight imports of ephedrine, each of similar quantities, were found hidden in cigarette packets inside power adapters, and concealed in metal cabinet doors. In total around 157 kilograms of ephedrine, which could have produced up to 54 kilograms of meth (with a potential street value of up to $54 million), was stopped.

Four people were convicted with the final offender sentenced in October 2015. They are all currently serving jail terms of between 6 and 8 years.

During Operation Mohawk, Customs linked up with NZ Police who carried out an international operation, tackling the ‘supplier’ syndicate and leading to a further four arrests overseas. 

Customs Manager Investigations, Maurice O’Brien, says the ultimate aim is to take down and disrupt the entire criminal network – the international suppliers, importers, and distributors.

“Stopping meth and its precursors at the border is a priority for Customs and we’ll do all it takes to stop these drugs reaching our communities. A huge amount of ephedrine was seized during this operation, so the results are quite significant.

“This operation is a great example of how our work extends beyond New Zealand’s border – it shows just how closely Customs works with agencies here and overseas, sharing resources and skills to disrupt an elaborate criminal network.”

“Mohawk is an example of how our law enforcement partnerships work on a daily basis. Our work is both proactive – such as targeting, information-gathering, intelligence and liaison activity to identify high-risk consignments – and reactive where we respond to seizures. Either way, it is the protection of our border and our communities that are our focus.”