Police staff, millionaire in drug bust

Two police staff - including a prosecutor - and millionaire businessmen are among 19 people arrested after a covert investigation targeting a criminal syndicate allegedly making and selling thousands of ecstasy pills every week.

Confidential police information was also allegedly leaked to members of the group.

About $14 million of assets were seized yesterday in raids, including multimillion-dollar homes, expensive cars such as Bentleys, BMWs and Range Rovers, jet skis, a boat and pill presses.

The seizures followed a 12-month inquiry into the manufacture, supply and distribution of class B and C drugs.

Detectives in Operation Ark say the syndicate was the biggest player in the underground pill market and sold tens of thousands of tablets - which sell for at least $40 - each week.

The mixture of chemical compounds found in the designer drugs could be fatal, police say.

More than 200 police officers executed search warrants at 45 addresses across Auckland, with the armed offenders squad called to two properties.

Fourteen of the 19 arrested appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday afternoon charged with a variety of drug-related offences, including the manufacture and sale of MDMA - the class-B drug known as ecstasy - and analogues such as 4-MEC and 4-MMC.

The other five defendants will appear today.

At the centre of the inquiry is the 37-year-old company director, who has name suppression to protect the reputation of his business and lucrative overseas contracts. His $3 million property has been seized.

A 30-year-old staff member of the company also has name suppression.

Two others have name and occupation suppression, a 35-year-old from Meadowbank and a 58-year-old from Remuera, while the identity of a 30-year-old hairdresser and her husband is also secret.

The two police staff, including a prosecutor, who are non-sworn, will appear in the Auckland District Court today.

Court documents reveal the 36-year-old, who also has name suppression, faces several charges of conspiring to supply methamphetamine, a class-A drug, and participation in an organised criminal group.

The second police staff member to appear today is a 34-year-old man.

All but one of the 14 accused was granted bail - Stanley Marshall Alphonsus Leone was recalled to prison.

The 30-year-old faces four charges of manufacturing, supplying and selling class B and class C drugs.

Others who can be named include Johnny Be Good (35), Rangimarie Kemp (27), Grant Oswald Petersen (25), Kevin Sean Challis (32), Shalendra Singh (32), Kelvin Sonny Cress (33) and Brendan Nguyen (32).

While some of the the accused are millionaires, Petersen is a disc jockey, Kemp is a road worker and Challis is a painter.

Nguyen faces 28 charges, including attempting to pervert the course of justice by providing sensitive police information to two co-accused.

He is also charged with conspiring with one of the police staff and Allen Bryan Cho to supply methamphetamine. Cho (36) is on the run from police.

Singh faces 27 charges, including supplying methamphetamine and money laundering more than $100,000 through a bank account connected to Cho.

Detective Inspector Bruce Good, the head of the Auckland metro drug squad, said the syndicate interrupted by police was responsible for the bulk of the manufacturing and supply of ecstasy in New Zealand, which involves tens of thousands of pills a week. He said ecstasy sells for at least $40 a pill.

"What is also of concern is that many of the pills or tablets seized comprise various mixtures of compounds, the effects of which when consumed could be fatal.

Some were being manufactured on premises where rat poison was also made."

Police found eight pill presses at three locations - Onehunga, Highbrook and Albany - as well as several dies for the presses, kilos of compound ready to be pressed, tens of thousands of pills and a loaded shotgun.



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