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Box ships used as drug mules

NZ Police have prosecuted a case where 46kg of cocaine was smuggled into the country on the exterior of a container ship.

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New Zealand news website Stuff has reported on a Police investigation into a drug ring that apparently used a Maersk Line vessel as a drug mule in 2017.


New Zealand’s two main islands have just five airports with international connections and a handful of container ports handling import cargo between them, making it one of the more difficult places to smuggle drugs and counterfeit material into. The scheme uncovered by police involved packages of cocaine being attached to a container vessel in a cavity near the rudder by divers, and then removed in New Zealand.


It is not known exactly where the drugs were attached to the vessel, but the smugglers were using Maersk’s South Pacific Express Service, which calls Manzanillo and Lazero Cardenas in Mexico, Balboa in Panama, Buenaventura in Colombia, Callao in Peru and San Antonio then San Vicente in Chile before sailing to Tauranga, where the Police watched the operation in action and made several arrests.


Posing as fishermen, the smugglers approached vessel in a dingy and dropped a diver to retrieve the drugs. CCTV footage shows the dingy sailing right under the stern of the Maersk Antares in the incident where the smugglers were caught. The Police had been following the whole operation for some time by that point, including the inland logistics to sell the drugs and launder the proceeds.

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