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Customs arrests five; Contraband seized

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Staff Reporter

13 May 2024, 7:31 PM

Customs arrests five; Contraband seizedIllicit activity uncovered on the North Shore

A recent Customs investigation in Auckland has resulted in the arrest of five individuals and the confiscation of significant contraband, including over 1.36 million illicit cigarettes, two firearms, and a substantial amount of cash.

This morning, Customs executed search warrants in Auckland’s North Shore, leading to the apprehension of a 35-year-old male suspect, who is scheduled to appear in the Auckland District Court this week.

The operation uncovered illicit cigarettes and a substantial sum of cash.

The arrests follow a series of search warrants carried out last Friday, with assistance from the Police, targeting three residential properties, a private catamaran, and a storage facility in the North Shore, as well as a commercial business in Greenlane.

During the raids on Friday, three men and one woman, aged between 35 and 45, were apprehended and appeared in the North Shore District Court the same day.

At one residential property, authorities discovered a significant amount of cash, two firearms, ammunition, and additional evidence.

In a self-storage facility, 286 black rubbish sacks containing over 1.3 million undeclared cigarettes were seized, representing approximately NZ$2 million in revenue evasion.

The defendants face multiple charges, including defrauding Customs revenue, possession or custody of undeclared goods, sale of undeclared goods, and participation in an organised crime group.

Further charges are under consideration.

Customs Investigations Manager, Dominic Adams, disclosed that Operation Montreal, initiated in February 2024, targeted a network believed to be responsible for the large-scale distribution of undeclared cigarettes across Auckland.

Adams highlighted the broader implications of illicit tobacco trade, emphasising its association with organised crime and its adverse impact on communities.

He urged public cooperation in combating such activities, underscoring Customs' commitment to addressing tax evasion and related crimes.

"This issue extends beyond smuggling cheap cigarettes. Well-resourced organised criminal groups often exploit this trade, potentially funding more serious criminal activities," Adams stated.

Concerned individuals can report suspicions or knowledge of illegal smuggling activities to Customs via the 24-hour confidential hotline at 0800 WE PROTECT (0800 937 768) or contact Crimestoppers anonymously at 0800 555 111.