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The man was arrested on Wednesday night, and a statement from Customs says the pictures and videos were located on his phone.
The man appeared in the Manukau District Court this afternoon charged with importing and possessing objectionable publications. Investigations are ongoing, and further charges have not been ruled out.
Customs said the man came to their attention late last year following a "tip-off" from overseas enforcement partners.
He returned to New Zealand last night after a one year sabbatical in the United Kingdom, and was met by Customs officers. Customs said a search of his phone located numerous images and videos depicting child sexual abuse.
Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry says there is a global network of law enforcement agencies and partners that work together to stop individuals who commit crimes against children.
"Customs has a dedicated team of specialists who work around the clock to target and catch people who commit cross-border offending relating to child sexual exploitation. While we are based at the New Zealand border, law enforcement has a global reach.
"This should be a further warning to people who commit child sexual exploitation offences – whether you're carrying the illegal material on your devices physically across the border, travelling overseas for child sex tourism, or downloading or uploading objectionable images and videos across the cyber border – Customs will catch you," Mr Berry says.
Budget 2019 allocated $10.2 million, over four years, to Customs to help boost its efforts to combat child sexual exploitation across New Zealand's cyber and physical borders.