Wanaka drug suspects had 'big lifestyle'

Malcolm Inglis.
Malcolm Inglis.
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, he said.

''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 supplying ecstasy.

Neither man applied for bail and both were remanded in custody. Schwalger faces two charges of offering to supply ecstasy.

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.


Operation Viking
Five-month operation targeting flow of class A and B drugs into Wanaka area.

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.