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New Zealand discovers 3.5 tons of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean

The Week US 2/8/2023 Theara Coleman
stacks of cocaine bundles being operation hydros sign AP Photo/NZ Police © AP Photo/NZ Police stacks of cocaine bundles being operation hydros sign AP Photo/NZ Police

New Zealand discovers 3.5 tons of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean

New Zealand police have seized over three tons of cocaine wrapped into 81 bales floating in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean, "in the single largest drug bust in the nation's history," The Washington Post reports. 

New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster estimates that the cache traveling from South America to Australia is worth 500 million New Zealand dollars ($315 million) and weighs 3.2 metric tons (3.5 tons). "We believe there was enough cocaine to service the Australian market for about one year," Coster said, per NBC News, "and this would be more than New Zealand would use in 30 years." 

The bundles of cocaine were "set up into nets" with floatation devices, which is not an uncommon design, senior New Zealand detective Greg Williams told reporters, per the Post. Organized crime syndicates have multiple methods of smuggling drugs into the country, "and this is just one of those ways." Williams explained that the packages were labeled with the Batman logo and black four-leaf clovers, a "trademark logo" for drug producers. "In the underworld, it's like 'here's my mark, you can trust me,'" he added. 

New Zealand authorities have not made any arrests or revealed detailed information about the seizure. The drugs were located as part of the December-launched Operation Hydros, which aims to "monitor the movements of suspicious vessels," per a press release from police. Authorities were also assisted by New Zealand's partners from the Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group, the Post says, which includes law enforcement agencies from Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States.

The bales of cocaine were seized by a New Zealand navy ship deployed to the area last week. The ship then carried the drugs on the six-day trip back to New Zealand, where authorities will destroy them. 

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