Eight men living a ''big lifestyle'' in the Wanaka area
have been arrested for alleged large-scale dealings in LSD and
ecstasy after undercover police officers infiltrated the
resort's drug scene during a five-month operation.
Southern police executed 10 search warrants at addresses in
and around Wanaka yesterday and on Sunday, arresting eight
men ranging in age from 19 to 49.
Large quantities of powdered MDMA (ecstasy) and hundreds of
LSD tabs were seized, along with cannabis, $13,000 in cash
and other drugs yet to be analysed by ESR.
It is the second major southern drug bust in a week, after
police swooped on properties in Invercargill and Central
Otago last Thursday and arrested 17 people they said were key
players in a crime ring.
The Wanaka investigation, dubbed Operation Viking, was
carried out by Otago Rural CIB staff, with support from the
Southern District organised crime squad.
It began in July, using several undercover police officers to
target the flow of class A and B drugs into the area.
At a media briefing in Wanaka yesterday, crime squad head
Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Inglis, said the men
arrested in the Wanaka operation faced between 70 and 100
drug charges, including supply of class A drugs - which
carried a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
''It's the top end of drug dealing.''
Four men appeared in the Queenstown District Court yesterday
and four others are to appear at a later date.
The alleged offenders ranged from seasonal workers who had
been living in the Wanaka area for a few months, to permanent
residents of more than 18 years.
They were people who did minimal work, frequented cafes and
restaurants and appeared to have ''no lack of cash'', Det Snr
Sgt Inglis said.
''People who liked to live the lifestyle - high expense with
no other real form of income.''
Many had ''associations'' with one another and could be
described as being part of a ''loose ring'' of drug-dealing.
The ecstasy and LSD was believed to have been imported from
overseas and police were aware of thousands more tabs
available in the community.
''People think they can come in here during the season, when
there are a lot of young people about, and sell their drugs
and make easy money.
''These drugs are destined not only for the young people who
are working in the ski or adventure sports industries, or
participating in the rave scene, they are being used and
abused by all social groups across our community.''
There was significant evidence the drugs supplied in the
Wanaka community had caused serious harm.
''We know of people who, as a result of taking these kinds of
drugs, have suffered serious mental health issues, to the
point of wanting to take their own lives.''
''The alleged offenders involved choose to put their big
lifestyle first, with no regard for the community harm and
the wreckage that these drugs create in people's lives,'' Det
Snr Sgt Inglis said.
Police were still working to locate several other people in
relation to the operation and were keen to hear from anyone
with further information.
While the arrests would make an impact on Wanaka's drug
scene, there would be others who would try to fill the void,
''But we'll certainly be targeting them, as well.''
• Four of the arrested men appeared in the Queenstown
District Court yesterday.
Daniel Miller (29), plasterer, Oscar Jimmy Gold Arlidge (28),
Daimon Jon Schwalger (41) and Campbell Smith (28) appeared
before Judge David Holderness and were remanded without plea
until December 16.
Miller faces 28 charges: two of offering to supply class A
drug LSD, six of offering to sell or supply class B drug
ecstasy (MDMA), 17 of offering to sell class C drug cannabis,
one of procuring MDMA, one of conspiring to sell a class B
drug, and one of conspiring to sell a class C drug.
Arlidge faces seven charges: five of supplying LSD and two of
Neither man applied for bail and both were remanded in
custody. Schwalger faces two charges of offering to supply
Smith faces three charges after allegedly selling LSD to an
undercover police officer, selling ecstasy to an undercover
police officer on a separate occasion, and selling ecstasy to
an associate. Both were granted bail.
Judge Holderness, summing up the summary of facts while
considering Smith's bail application, said Smith allegedly
sold five tabs of LSD to the undercover officer on August 31
for $120, then four capsules of ecstasy on September 10 to
the undercover officer for $240.
Judge Holderness said Smith allegedly admitted in a police
interview selling two capsules of ecstasy, priced at $60
each, to a female.
Five-month operation targeting flow of class A and B drugs into
Searched: 10 properties in Wanaka area.
Seized: Large quantities of LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and
cannabis, $13,000 in cash, other drugs yet to be analysed.
Arrested: Eight men on 70-100 charges, including
supply of class A drugs.
In court yesterday: 4.