Gang in $3 million bust used fake IDs

Michael Cavanaugh.
Michael Cavanaugh.
Dozens of fake driving licences and a false passport were allegedly used by a drug ring to hide luxury cars, millions of dollars in cash, firearms and property.

Two senior Head Hunter gang members were arrested on Monday after a covert investigation into methamphetamine manufacture. Police allege the false identification was used to conceal the profits of the illicit drug trade.

Detectives found a machine used to forge New Zealand driving licences and dozens of drivers' licences used as aliases for seven of the eight people arrested this week in Operation Genoa.

The fake identification was allegedly used to rent storage facilities to conceal cash and cars, set up bank accounts and safety deposit boxes, rent a boat mooring, obtain a false passport, purchase property - even book a dinner.

Detective Inspector Bruce Good said the false identities were to help members of the group to avoid detection, but also to hide assets from the police who can seize them under powerful legislation.

"We've found 16 storage facilities and finding more each day. One of them hadn't been touched since 2011 and it had $300,000 inside," Mr Good told the Herald.

"We say they've used false ID to open storage [facilities] or purchase assets, like a vehicle, in someone else's name. So when the police come along, they're hoping that we don't find out about the false identity and take the assets. It's one way of trying to get around the asset forfeiture laws."

The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act came into force in 2009 and essentially forces someone to prove how an asset was paid for - even if they were acquitted on criminal charges.

More than $3 million of assets were seized in Operation Genoa, including $2 million cash, luxury cars including a Ferrari, Porsche and a Maserati, a 9m launch, five properties and gold and silver bars.

Two of the eight individuals arrested were senior patched Head Hunters Michael Joseph Cavanagh, 40, and 49-year-old David Gerrard O'Carroll. O'Carroll is in Auckland Hospital after being bitten by police dogs when trying to flee in the raids on his home.

The others arrested are Shannon Kay Stevens, Peter Matthew Shaw, Deborah Anne Henry, Victoria Louise Cavanagh, Lisa Marie Ryan and Nigel John Bowker. They face a range of charges including manufacturing methamphetamine, money laundering, unlawful possession of a restricted weapon, obtaining false documents and participating in an organised criminal group.

Mr Good, who has overseen the largest drug inquiries in New Zealand, said Operation Genoa showed the demand for methamphetamine was "substantial and isn't going away".

"Let's not kid ourselves," Mr Good said. "These aren't the only people manufacturing. That concerns me."

- Jared Savage, NZ Herald

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