Customs stopped over a tonne of Meth (over $1billion worth) in 2016

Customs’ statistics show just over 413 kilograms of methamphetamine and almost 1.1 tonnes of its precursors, with a potential meth yield of up to 809 kilograms, were seized at our border in 2016. This adds up to $1.2 billion worth of meth that has been kept off New Zealand’s streets.

With 490 separate meth and precursor seizures making up the bulk volume, the 4165 interception tally is over 1.86 tonnes, 51 litres, and 217,642 items such as tabs and pills. MDMA, cannabis, controlled and prescription medicines, LSD, Class C analogues, and psychoactive substances were most common on the seizure list after meth and precursors.

Northern Ports Manager Bruce Berry says Customs does a lot of work behind the scenes to risk-assess every cargo consignment, parcel, passenger and vessel that crosses New Zealand’s border.

“Customs’ intelligence points to where the risk is, and officers use tools, knowledge, experience, and their gut instincts to make seizures daily. Drugs concealments are getting more elaborate and sophisticated, but we’re also always updating our targeting and examination methods to keep up with illicit trends,” Mr Berry says.

“We are seeing more finished meth in larger quantities and, in the last couple of years, ephedrine has replaced pseudoephedrine as the precursor of choice. Customs is also seeing a rise in the number of seizures and volumes of MDMA or ecstasy.”

‘High frequency, low quantity’ drugs sent mainly via international mail are also on the rise, suggesting users are increasingly buying drugs off the dark net and other illegal websites.

Investigations Manager Maurice O’Brien says Customs’ record drug-seizure levels can be attributed to a number of factors. Criminals are trying harder, but Customs is also working smarter.

“We’re no different from the rest of the world; drug smuggling is a global issue and there’s a glut in the global market. New Zealand’s meth and MDMA prices are much higher compared to many countries, which makes drug smuggling a lucrative business for transnational syndicates.

“Customs is constantly improving its intelligence by exchanging information with overseas partners, and using data and technology to target shipments. We don’t just seize drugs; we’re working closely with Police to dismantle local criminal networks, and with international agencies to tackle the overseas supply chain,” Mr O’Brien says.

Border seizures were at record levels in 2016 compared to previous years, with Customs’ largest seizures made in the last twelve-month period. These included 176 kg of meth located in shipping containers (Customs’ largest meth seizure), 200kg of ephedrine discovered in hollowed out stacks of paper (largest ephedrine seizure ever), 35kg cocaine found inside a horse sculpture (largest cocaine seizure ever), and 20kg meth found in suitcases (largest meth seizure at an airport).

Customs’ 413kg meth seizure in 2016 is one and a half times more than 2015 (283kg), five times more than 2014 (82kg), and 20 times more than 2013 (21kg).