A multi-agency investigation has dismantled an Auckland criminal syndicate being operated by Vietnamese nationals.
The ongoing operation by New Zealand Police and the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE) resulted in 10 arrests, dismantling drug cultivation and money laundering operations. Twelve people are also facing deportation from New Zealand.
As part of Operation Beryl, with MBIE and Immigration New Zealand, Police executed 53 search warrants at addresses across Waitematā and Counties Manukau districts as part of the continued focus on disrupting organised criminal activity.
Police say 42 significant cannabis crop grows were located with 6,886 plants and approximately 10 kilograms of packaged cannabis seized.
“This has a street value of between $16-$25 million. Up to $100,000 in cash was also located and seized,” Police said in a statement.
“The 12 deportations involve nine migrants unlawfully in New Zealand, while a further three will be deported this weekend. Three others on temporary visas have been served deportation liability notices, and potential deportation liability is being investigated for another 14.”
Police say their intelligence suggests the crime syndicate was predominantly operating across the Waitematā and Counties Manukau Police districts.
Waitematā Acting Detective Sergeant David Coombridge says the arrests follow an inquiry involving Police and Immigration officers into criminal syndicates involving Vietnamese nationals where members were primarily using residential properties to set up sophisticated indoor cannabis growing systems.
Some of these offenders have come to New Zealand specifically for the purpose of participating in these Organised Crime Groups, he said.
“These arrests should serve as a warning to those that may be involved in these kinds of drug cultivation, drug dealing and money laundering operations, that Police will hold them to account.”
“Police are well aware there are individuals and organisations that are enabling this kind of activity and are more than willing to profit off the proceeds of crime. Let this be a warning that they are likely to come to Police attention.”
MBIE’s David Campbell, National Manager Compliance says the investigation was an excellent example of cooperation across Government agencies.
“As a result of Police and MBIE Compliance’s interactions with these migrants, we are now investigating the involvement of a number accredited employers.”
“Migrant workers need to be aware of those who would seek to exploit them. If you are being asked to pay large amounts of money to an offshore agent to travel and work in New Zealand, it is highly likely that this is part of a fraudulent scam,” he said.
The 10 people arrested are due to appear in the Waitākere, North Shore and Counties Manukau courts over the coming days.
Police have not ruled out further charges and arrests as part of Operation Beryl, while Immigration New Zealand will look to expedite deportations for those in breach of their visa conditions or who are here unlawfully.
“Police are also working alongside Immigration New Zealand in relation to the foreign nationals involved in this investigation as we want to ensure the migrant communities are kept safe from those who would exploit the conditions of their work visas,” Police said in a statement.
“We continue to encourage anyone with information about suspected money laundering and drug dealing in their community to contact 105, or Crime Stoppers anonymously via 0800 555 111.
“Migrant communities concerned with possible exploitation should contact MBIE on 0800 20 90 20.”