A New Zealand drug task force prepares to seize a 3.5 ton shipment of cocaine floating at a drop zone in the middle of the Pacific. Photo courtesy of New Zealand Police
Feb. 8 (UPI) -- New Zealand authorities announced Wednesday the seizure of a 3.5 ton haul of cocaine with a street value of $317 million in a major anti-drugs operation carried out in the middle of the Pacific.
Operation Hydros involved New Zealand Police working in partnership with New Zealand Customs Service and the New Zealand Defense Force to intercept the cocaine shipment, believed to be en route from South America, floating in the Pacific at a dropzone six days' sail from New Zealand.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told a press conference the shipment was most likely bound for Australia, noting the supply was large enough to last 30 years if intended for the New Zealand markets.
"There is no doubt this discovery lands a major financial blow right from the South American producers through to the distributors of this product," Coster said in a news release.
"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."
The 81 bales of drugs have been brought back to New Zealand and destroyed, but as yet no arrests have been made.
New Zealand Customs Service Acting Controller Bill Perry said the successful interception was the result of excellent collaboration with police and the New Zealand Defence Force, as well as with international partners.
"Customs is pleased to have helped prevent such a large amount of cocaine causing harm in communities here 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 organized crime will go to with their global drug trafficking operations and shows that we are not exempt from major organized criminal drug smuggling efforts in this part of the world."