A 68-year-old man has been caught with $1.5 million of
methamphetamine in his luggage after being tricked by
Nigerian internet scammers.
The Aucklander has been charged with importing and possession
of a Class-A drug for supply.
He lost tens of thousands of dollars over several years in an
online fraud and went to Papua New Guinea last month in the
belief he would be given a large sum of money as repayment.
The cash never arrived but he was again promised a large
payment if he carried a laptop back to New Zealand. He was
also showered with gifts during his five-day stay in Port
Moresby. He could not fit them into his own luggage so his
hosts gave him two extra bags to carry them back.
Customs officers at Auckland International Airport discovered
1.5kg of methamphetamine concealed inside the luggage he was
given, which led to a five-week joint investigation with the
Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand.
Two more caches of the Class-A drug, weighing 1.2kg, were
found hidden in shoes.
The total amount seized in Operation Gatsby has a street
value of $2.7 million. Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid
said a lot of the drugs had been sent here from the
Philippines and Cameroon through the international mail
Ten people have been arrested and charged with the
importation and possession of Class-A drugs for supply, which
carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. One of the
accused also faces charges over a cannabis growing house
discovered during the police raids.
Mr Schmid said the leaders of the alleged drug ring were
Nigerian expatriates based in Auckland and Woodville, near
"This investigation demonstrates the New Zealand drug market
is being targeted by organised crime syndicates from every
corner of the globe."
The unusual Operation Gatsby case has prompted police
warnings on the twin dangers of internet scams and luggage
Maurice O'Brien, the Customs investigations manager, said
people travelling overseas should never carry bags that do
not belong to them and "remain vigilant at all times in
respect of their personal security and that of their
Sharon Armstrong has only recently returned to New Zealand
after being arrested in April 2011 when 5kg of cocaine was
found hidden in her luggage at Buenos Aires Airport.
The Wellington woman believed she was taking a secret
business contract - not drugs - to London where she was to
give it to a man she had been dating online for six months.
New Zealanders are also being targeted frequently by
ever-changing online scams and tricked into sending thousands
of dollars overseas.
Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Pascoe, head of the Auckland
financial crime unit, regularly deals with the victims of
He said victims who stop sending money are often contacted by
criminals pretending to be law enforcement officers who tell
them the money has been recovered and they should travel
overseas to collect it.
- Jared Savage