New-Zealand drug bust

By David Barber

Wellington (dpa) – New Zealand police investigating Asian

organized crime raided a money exchange company in Auckland Thursday,

claiming it was a multi-million dollar operation to launder illegal

drug proceeds.

   Two people were arrested and police seized their assets, including

a house valued at 2 million New Zealand dollars (1.4 million US

dollars) and two vehicles, the firm’s bank accounts, three firearms

and 40,000 New Zealand dollars cash.

   A police statement linked the raid with the seizure of

methamphetamine, worth 5 million New Zealand dollars, and the arrest

of six other men last week.

   “Police believe the financial firm has assisted the drug ring to

launder money by transferring large amounts of drug money through

various accounts, and moving it internationally to disguise its

origin,” detective inspector Steve Wood, of the Organized and

Financial Crime Agency, said.

   He said the Auckland-based criminals were linked to other criminal

networks in China, Taiwan and South Korea.

   Wood said the raid was part of Taskforce Acacia, a year-long

investigation targeting Asian organized crime in New Zealand, which

had seen more than 6 million New Zealand dollars worth of

methamphetamine and the precursor drug ContacNT seized, along with 21

guns and 400,000 New Zealand dollars.

   Sixteen people have been charged with drug-dealing offences.

   The pair arrested Thursday, a 26-year-old company director and a

finance manager, 27, were jointly charged with laundering 1.9 million

New Zealand dollars over the past year.