Kiwis caught on cruise with cocaine

Two New Zealanders have been arrested on a cruise after about 5kg of cocaine was allegedly found in their cabin.

Tony Wilkinson, 42, and Kirstie Harris, 25, were arrested, along with an Australian man, after the drugs were allegedly found during a search of a P&O cruise liner docked at the Port of San Francisco, said US customs officials.

The search, carried out on January 25, was a joint operation between US Customs and Border Protection officers and a multi-agency taskforce composed of Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations agents, US Coast Guard, and local law enforcement personnel.

"This joint enforcement effort led to the interception of 13 kilograms (28.6 pounds) of cocaine and the arrest of three foreign nationals,'' US Customs said in a statement.

Officers allegedly found about 5kg of a white powdery substance, which tested positive for cocaine, concealed in a suitcase inside a cabin occupied by Wilkinson and Harris, both New Zealand citizens.

A further 7.7kg of cocaine was allegedly found in a cabin belonging to 27-year-old Australian Ahmed Rachid, the US Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

Customs Border Patrol spokesman Gary Horne said that during an interview with Rachid, officers detected an "anomaly'' which prompted a search of his cabin, UK's The Mirror reported.

"We talk to them. We ask them where they're from and what they're bringing in,'' he said.

All three were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials for investigation of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Customs inspectors would no say if the two discoveries were related, said The Mirror.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said today it had offered consular assistance to the New Zealanders.

The spokesman would not say if they were in custody.

The three people are understood to have been aboard the Aurora during a world cruise and had arrived in San Francisco from Curacao, a Caribbean Island.

After leaving San Francisco it sailed to Honolulu, and was now on its way to Sydney.

A P&O Cruises spokesman said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

- APNZ and Herald Online

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