New Zealand police said Wednesday they found 3.5 tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean after it was dropped there by an international drug-smuggling syndicate. While they have yet to make any arrests, police said they had dealt a financial blow to everyone from the South American producers of the drugs to the distributors in what was the nation's largest-ever drug seizure. New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the cocaine had been dropped at a floating transit point in 81 bales before it was intercepted by a navy ship, which was deployed to the area last week.
He said police, customs, and the military found the drugs after launching Operation Hydros in December in collaboration with international partner agencies to identify and monitor the movements of suspicious vessels. The Washington Post reports authorities didn't detail the specifics that led them to the bust, but senior police detective Greg Williams did say the use of nets and flotation devices was not an atypical method of drug smuggling.
After collecting the drugs, the navy ship then made the six-day trip back to New Zealand, where the drugs were being documented and incinerated. Coster said the wholesale value of the cocaine was about $316 million and it was likely destined for Australia, reports the AP. "We believe there was enough cocaine to service the Australian market for about one year, and this would be more than New Zealand would use in 30 years," Coster said.
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