By Jite Eriabie
New Zealand authorities have seized the country’s largest cocaine shipment which arrived to the port of Tauranga hidden in a compartment attached to the underwater hull of Maersk Antares container vessel.
A spokesperson from Maersk Line confirmed that the shipment was discovered on October 31, when the boxship arrived to Tauranga from Chile in the late evening hours.
New Zealand’s Customs Service informed that members of a trans-national drug syndicate approached the ship and retrieved the cocaine, with a street value of around NZD 20 million (USD 13.8 million), from the compartment.
The authorities executed search warrants in Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and residential addresses in Auckland on November 1 related to the shipment, which culminated in arrests of four foreign nationals. The arrested people are believed to be in no relation to the ship’s crew members.
The Maersk Antares, which is deployed on Maersk Line’s AC3/Triple Star service, linking Latin America, New Zealand and Asia, departed the Port of Tauranga “as per the schedule with no delay to the service,” the spokesperson said.
“Maersk is fully committed to abiding by the local laws of every jurisdiction we operate in. As such Maersk Line is cooperating fully with the New Zealand authorities,” Maersk Line informed.
Assistant Commissioner Chambers said that this is the largest single seizure of cocaine in New Zealand, and that the shipment was destined for New Zealand.
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