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Customs officers in Auckland say they have seized 80kg of pseudoephedrine, enough to produce as much as 24kg of methamphetamine (P) with a street value of around $20 million.
It is the third-largest haul of its kind seen in New Zealand.
Officers x-raying a container detected the Contac NT -- a brand of cold and flu capsule manufactured in China which contains a high strength of pseudoephedrine -- in a shipment of packaged foodstuffs from China.
Customs manager drug investigations Bill Perry said Contac NT was available as an over-the-counter medicine in China. Customs seizures of pseudoephedrine had been increasing since 2004.
"In 2006 we intercepted a record total of 594kg. But with 458kg already this year, we're likely to get close to, if not exceed, that record," he said.
Customs seized 292kg of pseudoephedrine in 2004, 371kg in 2005 and 393kg last year.
"Currently we are getting a great deal of this coming in from China but a single consignment this size is rare," Mr Perry said.
"It's a great feeling to know that we have kept that much off the streets, knowing the damage that it can ultimately do.
"Mostly it comes in much smaller lots through the mail systems and airports. On average we intercept at least one of these types of imports a day."
In connection with the 80kg haul, an Auckland man has been charged with importation of a Class C controlled drug and possession for supply of a class C drug.
A Customs spokesman told NZPA the seizure "is not connected at this stage" to this week's bust of a multi-million dollar P ring being run from inside prisons, after other Customs seizures of Contac P from China.