“Sol Prendido” for Borderland Beat

More than 3 tonnes of cocaine worth an estimated $500 million has been seized in the Pacific Ocean as part of a joint police, Customs and Defence Force operation.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the seizure was one of the biggest hauls of illegal drugs by authorities in New Zealand history.

The amount would supply New Zealand for 30 years, and Australia for one year, he said.

The seizure would deal a “significant blow” to an international criminal syndicate’s operation. Coster said the size of the shipment, found afloat, suggested it was likely destined for Australia.

The haul was more than four times larger than the previous biggest cocaine bust.

The cocaine was dropped at a transit point in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

New Zealand authorities seized 3.2 tonnes of cocaine afloat in the Pacific Ocean, and NZ Navy vessel HMNZS Manawanui transported it back to New Zealand.

After the seizure, navy vessel HMNZS Manawanui made a six-day journey to transport the 81 bales of cocaine back to New Zealand.

The seizure came after the three agencies began a joint operation to “identify and monitor suspicious vessels’ movements”, dubbed Operation Hydros, in December 2022.

No arrests had been made at this stage and police were working with international partners to further their enquiries.

Customs say the cocaine seized as part of Operation Hydros has a street value of more than half a billion dollars.

Coster said he was “incredibly proud” of the National Organised Crime Group’s efforts alongside other agencies.

“There is no doubt this discovery lands a major financial blow right from the South American producers through to the distributors of this product.

“This is one of the single biggest seizures of illegal drugs by authorities in this country.

“While this disrupts the syndicate’s operations, we remain vigilant given the lengths we know these groups will go to circumvent coming to law enforcement’s attention.”

The Five Eyes law enforcement group was among the international partners who assisted with Operation Hydros, Coster said.

Police, Customs, Defence Force announce $500m cocaine haul

Police, Customs, and Defence Force officials announce the seizure of $500m of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean.

Police National Organised Crime Unit head Greg Williams said New Zealand was not a cocaine market, and the shipment was likely on its way to Australia.

“There’s no way 3.2 tonnes is coming to New Zealand,” Williams said.

Customs acting controller Bill Perry said the massive drug haul had a street value of more than half a billion dollars.

“Customs is pleased to have helped prevent such a large amount of cocaine causing harm in communities here in New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere in the wider Pacific region.

“The sheer scale of this seizure is estimated to have taken more than half a billion dollars’ worth of cocaine out of circulation.”

No arrests have been made yet, and police are working with international partners.

The scale of the seizure proved New Zealand was not exempt from drug smuggling efforts from major organised crime groups, he said.

Defence Force joint forces commander Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said the Defence Force was pleased to assist in the operation.

“We were very pleased with the result and are happy to be a part of this successful operation and are proud to play our part in protecting New Zealand.”

In March last year, the seizure of 700kg of cocaine on a ship docked in Tauranga destined for another country was New Zealand’s biggest.

That cocaine haul arrived in packages in a shipping container that left South America in January 2022, and had a street value of $280m.