International cooperation stops 1.6 tonnes of drugs reaching New Zealand

To mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking today, which aims to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse, Customs is acknowledging its overseas border and enforcement partners who have helped stop 1.6 tonnes of drugs from reaching New Zealand shores this year.

Illegal drug smuggling affects the lives of millions worldwide, with communities in New Zealand and across the Pacific grappling with the consequences of drug trafficking and organised crime in the region, like many other parts of the world.

Customs Acting Deputy Chief Executive – International and Governance, Paul Campbell, says Customs’ international cooperation networks have proven to be invaluable in stopping drugs from reaching our borders, which wouldn’t be possible without strong partnerships with overseas organisations.

During the first five months of 2024 (1 January to 31 May), according to data provided to New Zealand Customs, our overseas border and enforcement partners have stopped more than 1.6 tonnes of drugs before they reached New Zealand, preventing an estimated NZ$1.7 billion of potential harm.

During this period, more than 1.2 tonnes of methamphetamine, 210 kilograms of cocaine, and 92 kilograms of MDMA were reported to have been seized offshore by overseas jurisdictions.

In 2023, 2.7 tonnes of illegal drugs were seized, including 1.6 tonnes methamphetamine, 894 kilograms of cocaine and 232 kilograms of MDMA by overseas partners. Since 2018, when Customs first implemented its offshore disruption strategy, a total of 7.8 tonnes of illicit drugs have been seized offshore, preventing over NZ$ 7.5 billion worth of harm and cost to New Zealand.

“Customs has a network of liaison officers based in nine countries supporting intelligence-sharing with overseas partners to disrupt drug smuggling offshore. Seizing drugs prior to export before they even leave overseas ports and airports, and targeting those early in the illicit supply chain, is an important part of our strategy” Mr Campbell says.

“Today is a reminder of the strength of global collaboration. Customs values the increasingly close partnerships we have with our overseas partners who form the backbone of our work to disrupt those transnational organised crime groups wanting to exploit New Zealand, regardless of where these criminal groups are located.

“It is clear from our latest drug seizure figures that our offshore approach is delivering return on investment. Each year, Customs is helping increase the volume of drugs being stopped overseas that were meant for New Zealand. This is on top of the significant seizures we continue to make at our own borders.

“Our aim is to reduce the influence these criminal groups are trying hard to have in New Zealand. They work to control the market so they can extract maximum profit from it. This has a detrimental impact on the community as well as having significant economic costs that come from the millions of dollars organised crime groups take away from New Zealanders,” he said.

In addition to the 1.6 tonnes of illegal drugs seized by Customs’ overseas partners in the first five months of 2024, a further 2.3 tonnes of illegal drugs were seized by Customs’ frontline officers at the New Zealand border for the same period, including 806 kilograms of methamphetamine, 340 kilograms of cocaine and 392 kilograms of MDMA.

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