The Bay of Plenty Police Organised Crime squad have this week completed a major six month operation, culminating in the arrests of ten people on serious drugs charges, and significantly disrupting the supply of methamphetamine to the wider Bay of Plenty District.
The six month operation, called Operation Safari, peaked in the past two weeks, with the execution of 16 search warrants – seven of those were supported by members of the Tauranga and Rotorua Armed Offenders Squads.
The operation has resulted in:
• Six clandestine laboratories uncovered – five residential and one mobile laboratory located in a car – in Tauranga, Franklin and Rotorua
• The finding of chemicals and pre-cursor ingredients for manufacturing methamphetamine worth up to $850,000; these chemicals had the capability to produce quantities of methamphetamine worth up to $2.4 million
• $268,000 methamphetamine seized
• Recovery of more than $222,000 in cash along with silver and gold sovereign coins and bars worth in excess of $100,000
• Seizure of nine unlawfully held firearms and associated ammunition
• The identification of a major stolen property receiving network being identified, dealing in stolen property worth in excess of $100,000
• The seizing of property which will be subject to seeking restraint under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 legalisation, in relation to 17 cars, five motorcycles, a rural property, a 50 foot launch and a Haines Hunter power boat
Ten people have been arrested to date and altogether, they will face more than 90 charges including conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine, the manufacture and supply of methamphetamine, supplying pre-cursor ingredients used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, attempting to pervert the course of justice, possession of firearms and receiving stolen property.
Further charges are likely.
Those arrested have had initial court appearances over the past week in the Tauranga District Court. Five of those arrested have been remanded in custody.
Detective Senior Sergeant Lindsay Pilbrow of the Bay of Plenty Organised Crime Squad says the results achieved in the past week are extremely rewarding – not just for Police, but for the wider community which is seriously affected by the wider impacts of drugs.
"The consequences of drug related offending and drug use cannot be under estimated. Drugs are harmful, and methamphetamine is particularly harmful. The impacts are wide-reaching and beyond the individual user and often translate into other areas of crime such as burglary, stolen cars and property, serious violence and intimidation.
"This operation has highlighted the link to property offending, with large amounts of stolen property being fed through members of this group.
"This is why targeting organised crime groups is an ongoing priority for Police in the Bay of Plenty District. We are committed to targeting these groups to disrupt, deter and prosecute.
"People who choose to get involved, or assist in either the manufacture of methamphetamine itself, or in the laundering of proceeds from this activity, can expect to be targeted and will have charges brought against them.
"We take a multi-agency approach in this regard, working in conjunction with the Midlands Asset Recovery Unit and the Official Assignees Office, to target these groups and strip them of any assets illegally obtained."
Detective Senior Sergeant Pilbrow says the syndicate caught in the past two weeks was extremely well-organised, with large-scale operations across the Bay of Plenty and stretching into the Waikato and Auckland.
"It had the technology, equipment, chemicals and capability to produce large quantities of methamphetamine. The amounts we recovered in the past two weeks alone had the potential to produce methamphetamine worth more than $2 million.
"As a result of this operation, we have significantly disrupted the supply of methamphetamine in the Bay of Plenty. This has obvious and real benefits for our local communities."
Detective Senior Sergeant Pilbrow says seven members of the Bay of Plenty organised crime squad have been working on the operation full-time for the past six months.
"This has been a significant piece of work. The very nature of what we are seeking to achieve means that these are incredibly complex operations, involving thousands of hours of work and these results are a credit to this team of investigators."
He says the core group has also been supplemented in the past two weeks by Police, CIB and AOS staff in Tauranga and Rotorua.
Detective Senior Sergeant Pilbrow says the operation links recent high profile AOS search warrants in Tauranga, Ngongotaha and, Rotorua.
"This has been a significant operation and an excellent result for the Bay of Plenty – the second such large operation in two years which has been conducted by the District's organised crime squad.
"We are committed to reducing methamphetamine related harm in our communities by targeting organised crime, and we will continue to keep this pressure on in the future."