72-year-old accused of smuggling meth

A 72-year-old American man appeared in an Auckland court today for allegedly importing millions of dollars worth of methamphetamine into New Zealand.

The man was questioned by Customs officers when he arrived in Auckland from Bangkok on December 28.

He was arrested after Customs officers searched his baggage and found about 6.2kg of a white crystalline substance in the lining of his suitcase.

The substance tested positive for methamphetamine, with a street value of between $3 and $6 million, police say.

He appeared in the Manukau District Court today and was remanded in custody until his next scheduled appearance in March.

The case draws similarities with two separate arrests of US nationals, aged 70 and 55, for importing methamphetamine into Australia last week, Customs said.

A 68-year-old Auckland man was arrested in November last year after he arrived into New Zealand from Papua New Guinea carrying 1.5kg of methamphetamine concealed inside two bags he had been given.

The maximum penalty for importing class A controlled drugs into New Zealand is life imprisonment.

It was concerning that criminal syndicates appear to be targeting older people to carry significant amounts of drugs across borders, said Customs Manager Investigations Maurice O'Brien.

"It's important the public is aware that such criminal operations exist and people who, either knowingly or unknowingly, carry these drugs end up bearing the full brunt of the law.

"Customs urges passengers not to carry any items on behalf of others when travelling to or from overseas without being fully aware of the contents. And if you receive an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is - and not worth the risk," he said.

A statement from the New Zealand Customs Service said during the busy summer period, with high passenger volumes and many people taking a holiday, Customs operates in full force at international airports. It "remains focussed both at the frontline and behind the scenes on disrupting the illicit drug trade."


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