Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Drug couriers jailed after airport bust by Customs

Two Brazilian nationals have today been sentenced to prison terms by the Manukau District Court after Customs caught them trying to smuggle five kilograms of cocaine, worth up to $2.2 million, through Auckland International Airport earlier this year. 

In the first case, 23-year-old Brazilian national, Benhur Martin, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for smuggling approximately two kilograms of cocaine. Customs officers arrested him on 27 April 2023 after a search of his luggage found cocaine hidden within the lining of his suitcase. He was convicted for importation and possession of a Class A controlled drug for supply.

In the second case, 29-year-old Brazilian national, Mislene Dos Santos, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. She was arrested on 6 May 2023 after Customs officers found almost three kilograms of cocaine hidden within the walls of her suitcase. She was convicted for importation of a Class A controlled drug.

This year, Customs has arrested 11 individuals attempting to smuggle Class A controlled drugs – either cocaine or methamphetamine – through Auckland International Airport. These seizures added up to a total of 16.8 kilograms of cocaine and 53 kilograms of methamphetamine and have prevented an estimated $63.7 million in social harm to New Zealand communities.

The most recent airport seizure and arrest was in November 2023, after a 44-year-old US national was found smuggling around 6.7 kilograms of methamphetamine, worth up to $2.34 million, that was disguised as three Christmas presents hidden in her luggage.

Customs Manager Auckland Airport, Paul Williams says the holiday season is the busiest time at airports and drug smugglers may think they can hide in the crowds.

“Anyone attempting to smuggle drugs should consider themselves warned that the festive season is not a time to think our border is any easier to get through. Our frontline teams will continue to prevent transnational organised crime groups trying to exploit New Zealand for their financial gain,” he said.

“While Customs aims to clear passengers as quickly and efficiently as possible during the busy season, we will not compromise our efforts to protect New Zealand – 100 percent of all passengers are screened through our various risk assessments and technology, and we work closely with our partners in New Zealand and internationally to identify smugglers.

“These transnational organised crime groups don’t care about you or your families, or the consequences you will bear on their behalf for smuggling so don’t get involved. These cases demonstrate the consequences for smuggling – and jail is no place to celebrate this season.”

If you know or suspect someone may be involved in illegal smuggling, call Customs on 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768) a 24-hour confidential hotline or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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