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A sophisticated syndicate of designer drug dealers has been shut down today after an OFCANZ investigation involving Police and Customs.
Arrests have been made in Auckland and Napier and further are expected after the termination of the five month-long investigation.
Fourteen search warrants were executed and eight men and seven women have been arrested on drug offences including importation, sale, supply and possession for supply of Class B and C controlled drugs. Some are also charged with participating in an organised criminal group.
Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Cahill said the operation was a result of concerns throughout New Zealand over the increased supply of ecstasy-type pills.
"There is a lot of ignorance amongst users of these drugs, about what the pills contain and the level of danger associated with using them," Mr Cahill said.
"Today's activity will have an impact on the supply of harmful drugs that are regularly leading to hospital admissions"
The majority of the pills identified/seized are analogues of other controlled drugs such as MDMA ( Ecstasy ).
"Our investigation identified a sophisticated syndicate sourcing the drugs from an international supplier. The drugs are being imported in powder form from China and Singapore".
Mr Cahill says the manufacturers and importers are constantly altering the chemical makeup of the drugs in an attempt to circumvent the law and avoid detection.
Drugs identified during the operation include 4-MEC, bk-MDEA, Alpha-PVP and N-Ethlamphetamine.
"Legislation relating to analogues under the Misuse of Drugs Act has proved invaluable in combating this offending. The lack of such legislation in other countries has impacted on law enforcement's ability to combat so called designer drugs worldwide," he said.
The drug offending targeted in the investigation involved multi million dollar sales, with one dealer alone by his own records purchasing $4.5 million worth of pills from the NZ importer.
The investigation has also identified international money laundering and enquiries are continuing throughout Asia. Approximately $100 000 cash and four motor vehicles have been seized, along with several thousand pills and 3 kilograms of active ingredients for making the pills.
This operation is directly linked to Operation ARK a police operation terminated in November 2011. A number of persons arrested today are already on active charges stemming from this operation.
The drugs are supplied in NZ as various coloured pills with a variety of logos stamped on them. Pills retail for between $40 and $50 depending on the city they are sold in and the number being purchased.
All persons arrested are due to appear in the Auckland District court today with one person also appearing in the Napier District Court.