New Zealand criminals are taking inspiration from the hit TV
series Breaking Bad by using campervans to cook crystal
Top drug cops have confirmed gangs are going increasingly
mobile to prevent their illegal drug-making operations from
During a recent bust in Auckland, as part of the major crime
crackdown, Operation Genoa, detectives found a custom-made
mobile speed lab that looked like an "ordinary builder's
trailer", complete with a surf-ski attached to its roof.
And police have confirmed that crooks are using motorhomes
and caravans to cook well away from cities and towns.
"It allows them the freedom and ability to pack their kit up,
disappear to a remote location, get on with their business,
pack up and return to wherever they live and carry on," said
Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid of the Organised and
Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ) in Auckland.
Operation Genoa uncovered a sophisticated nationwide drug
ring, with police seizing more than $3 million of assets,
including $2m cash, luxury cars including a Ferrari, Porsche
and a Maserati, a 9-metre launch, five properties and gold
Another recent OFCANZ raid as part of Operation Enzone found
a pop-top caravan being used as a clan lab.
"The mobility aspect is fairly prevalent out there," Mr
In the award-winning six-season show, Breaking Bad characters
Walter White - a chemistry teacher - and Jesse Pinkman use a
motorhome as a mobile lab to drive into desert and cook
crystal meth, also known as speed, P, or ice.
Last year, police in Geelong, Victoria said they were
battling "the Breaking Bad syndrome", with a spike in
"Most ice is still imported, but we are also seeing people
with the Breaking Bad syndrome, where every idiot thinks
they're a chemist and can cook up their own drugs with no
regard for how incredibly dangerous it is," Detective Senior
Sergeant Dave McTaggart told the Geelong Advertiser.
South Island police are also aware of campervans and caravans
being used as labs on wheels.
"Criminals are always trying to stay ahead of our policing
strategies, and they like to be mobile," said Detective
Inspector Virginia Le Bas of Christchurch Police.
In 2003, police found a sophisticated mobile lab inside what
looked like a normal, white campervan.
Kenneth Wayne Welsh was jailed for 10 years for using the
campervan, crammed with volatile chemicals and P recipes, at
his rural Bay of Plenty home.
The cooking process produces noxious fumes from chemicals,
including phosphine, that are both highly explosive and
deadly if inhaled.
"I like to think of it as the old No. 8 wire technology that
Kiwis are famous for - where there's a will there's a way.
You shouldn't rule anything out with these characters," Mr
"With so much money to be made, people at all ends of the
criminal spectrum are going to have a crack at it."
The real Walter Whites
* In 2003, former Napier Boys' High School science teacher
Reuben John Martin was jailed for nine years for
manufacturing ecstasy and methamphetamine in his Greenmeadows
garage, in what was then the largest ecstasy manufacturing
lab discovered in New Zealand.
* In March, UK chemistry teacher Ryszard Jakubczyk, who
masterminded a plan to flood Britain's drugs market with
almost pure methamphetamine, was dubbed a real-life Walter
White, when he was jailed for nine years for plotted to make
almost 40kgs of the drug. "It was as if they had used the
plot of 'Breaking Bad' to come up with the whole idea,"
* US media reported their own "real life Walter White" in
April when Stephen Doran, a Boston maths teacher who was
diagnosed with cancer like the TV character, was jailed for
three years for trafficking crystal meth.