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Not Your Grandma’s Coke Float

New Zealand police discovered more than $320 million worth of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean — more cocaine than “New Zealand would use in 30 years,” according to the NZ Police Commissioner. It has been described as the country’s largest drug seizure to date. The cocaine originated in South America and was intercepted before reaching its final destination, likely Australia. While no arrests have been made, the investigation is ongoing. Police said the drugs were dropped in a remote part of the ocean by an international drug-smuggling syndicate. This tactic, known as a “cocaine float,” is not uncommon — smugglers leave packaged drugs in international waters for pickup by other vessels. Although the drugs were destroyed, the concerns of transnational organized crime remain, especially as drug overdose and fentanyl deaths surge worldwide. 

AP NEWS: New Zealand police find 3.5 tons of cocaine in Pacific Ocean

By Nick Perry; February 8, 2023

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand police said Wednesday they found more than 3 tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after it was dropped there by an international drug-smuggling syndicate.

While they had yet to make any arrests, police said they had dealt a financial blow to everyone from the South American producers of the drugs through to the distributors in what was the nation’s largest-ever drug seizure.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the cocaine had been dropped at a floating transit point in 81 bales before it was intercepted by a navy ship, which was deployed to the area last week. The ship then made the six-day trip back to New Zealand, where the drugs were being documented and destroyed.

Coster said the wholesale value of the 3.2 tonnes (3.5 tons) of cocaine was about 500 million New Zealand dollars ($316 million) and it was likely destined for Australia.

“We believe there was enough cocaine to service the Australian market for about one year, and this would be more than New Zealand would use in 30 years,” Coster said.

He said police, customs and the military found the drugs after launching Operation Hydros in December in collaboration with international partner agencies to identify and monitor the movements of suspicious vessels.

Coster said they were continuing to investigate the case with other international agencies.

Bill Perry, the acting comptroller of the New Zealand Customs Service, said the haul illustrated the lengths that organized syndicates were going to in order to smuggle drugs in the South Pacific.

“We see perhaps this is just an indication that the transnational organized crime groups are testing the market in different ways, so as agencies, we need to collaborate,” Perry said.

Photo: New Zealand Police / AP

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