Yet another major drug ring has been smashed with more than $44 million in drugs seized as police surpass the $500m milestone in confiscated assets from gangs and criminals over the past four years.
In the latest sting, dubbed Operation Worthington, 16 search warrants were executed across the Auckland region yesterday, netting 44kg in methamphetamine valued at over $44m, 26kg in ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, 5kg of ketamine and 3kg of MDMA, nearly $1m in cash, and property and vehicles worth over $10m.
Police say more than 200 charges have been laid against 20 people as a result of the month-long operation.
Assistant Commissioner Investigations Lauano Sue Schwalger said yesterday's operation highlighted the success of police's continued focus on organised crime.
"Police have seized a total estimated $513 million worth of cash and assets since the annual reporting target came into effect on 1 July 2017.
"Our goal was to hit $500 million by 30 June, and in doing so we know we have had a direct and significant impact on organised crime – an activity that feeds on greed, profits, and harm to the community."
Examples of the frozen assets that were restrained and later forfeited as part of sentencing that made up the huge haul included two boats and $28,700 in cash taken from Operation Frontia which was an investigation into the importation of methamphetamine.
Police seized this golden motorcycle after an operation targeting members and associates of the Comanchero motorcycle gang more than two years ago. (Photo / Supplied)
Just last month approximately $2m in cash and assets, including five residential properties, vehicles, motorcycles, jet skis, cash and the contents of various bank accounts were seized in an operation that targeted senior members of the Mongrel Mob in Hawke's Bay involved in supplying methamphetamine.
The illegally gained and accrued wealth from criminals become proceeds of crime and will be redistributed back into positive community projects via the Proceeds of Crime Fund.
The fund had invested in several initiatives including $4.94m in reintegration services for women through Ara Poutama Aotearoa, $3.15m for mental health and addiction treatment services in the Eastern Police District, and $1.78m in the Ministry of Health's Manaaki Wāhine – a trauma-informed intervention for women experiencing homelessness.
"If we remove the money that is used by criminals to reinvest in further illicit activities, we dismantle their ability to create other opportunities to cause harm," Schwalger said.
Schwalger said taking away the assets that criminals had bought with the proceeds of their criminal activity sent the message that crime did not pay.
It also meant taking away the lifestyle and "high-end toys" that were used by gangs to attract prospective members.
"We will continue the excellent work we do to make New Zealand the safest country by making it the hardest place in the world for criminals to do business."