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Aircraft suspected in Northland drug drop

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/06/2016

Police seized $448 million in methamphetamine Police seized $448 million in methamphetamine Northland locals believe a light aircraft may have been used to drop a massive cache of drugs into the sea off 90 Mile Beach.

Police have seized nearly 500kg of methamphetamine - a record single haul - since people became suspicious of a group of men ineptly trying to launch boats from the beach.

The drugs, sealed in salt water-tainted bags, were found in a campervan and buried in sand dunes. Four men have been arrested.

An Ahipara man now believes the drugs may be linked to a low-flying twin-engined turbo prop aircraft he heard late on Wednesday night last week.

It was unusual because only piston-engined aircraft flew in and out of Kaitaia but not at that time of night, he told Fairfax Media.

The plane was about 1km off the beach and could have easily flown from Tonga, Fiji or even Australia, he said.

Meanwhile, another Ahipara local has said the men - three Pacific Islanders, two Chinese and a Maori - asked for his help launching a boat from the beach.

Suspicious of their activity, he tipped off the police.

They said they wanted to scatter a friend's ashes at sea but the skipper didn't know how to handle the boat, he told the New Zealand Herald.

They later returned with a new boat - bought in Auckland for $98,000 - which was later found abandoned on the beach, where a GPS unit showed it had travelled to a spot off 90 Mile Beach.

Police were retrieving the abandoned boat on Sunday when two of the alleged offenders returned and after a short chase, were arrested at a nearby golf course. The bulk of the drugs were found in a campervan at Totara North, on the east coast.

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