A 'significant blow' has been dealt to an international crime syndicate after Operation Hydros recovered 3.2 tonnes of cocaine afloat in the Pacific ocean.
During the operation which involved staff from the New Zealand Police, working in partnership with New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defence Force, 81 bales of the illicit drug were discovered floating in the ocean.
Staff have since captured and transported the estimated half a billion dollars worth of cocaine back to New Zealand's shores aboard the HMNZS Manawanui. Once offloaded, the drugs will be destroyed.
Police said no arrests have been made at this stage and enquiries will continue into the shipment. Police will also liaise with international partners.
In a statement, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said that due to the size of the shipment, it would have likely been destined for the Australian market.
"This is one of the single biggest seizures of illegal drugs by authorities in this country. While this disrupts the syndicate’s operations, we remain vigilant given the lengths we know these groups will go to circumvent coming to law enforcement’s attention," Coster said.
Commissioner Coster said Police, Customs and other agencies continue to work closely with international partners to ensure the security of New Zealand's borders.
"I am incredibly proud of what our National Organised Crime Group has achieved in working with other New Zealand agencies, including New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defence Force.
"The significance of this recovery and its impact cannot be underestimated."
Customs Acting Comptroller Bill Perry said Customs is pleased to have helped prevent a large amount of cocaine from causing harm in communities in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere in the wider Pacific region.
"The sheer scale of this seizure is estimated to have taken more than half a billion dollars’ worth of cocaine out of circulation," Perry said.
"It is a huge illustration of what lengths organised crime will go to with their global drug trafficking operations and shows that we are not exempt from major organised criminal drug smuggling efforts in this part of the world."
Operation Hydros was set up in December 2022 to identify and monitor suspicious vessel movements alongside international partners.