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Significant Increase In Drug Seizures

Wednesday August 28 2002

Customs Reports Significant Increase In Drug Seizures

The New Zealand Customs Service is seizing record amounts of amphetamine-type substances - illegal synthetic drugs including MDMA, methamphetamine, crystal methamphetamine and amphetamine.

On Monday evening (August 26) approximately 20,000 tablets of MDMA were discovered concealed in a false bottom of a suitcase at Auckland International Airport. A female Japanese national has been arrested and charged with importing and possession of a Class B drug.

This brings the total amount of MDMA seized so far this calendar year to the equivalent of over 161,000 tablets - more than twice the total amount seized in the full 2001 year (73,000 tablets).

In addition Customs has made significant seizures of methamphetamine, amphetamine and crystallised methamphetamine.

Recent significant seizures include:

- On 8 August a female Danish national and a female Swedish national were detained on the suspicion they were internally concealing drugs. The two women were found to have internally concealed small packets of MDMA in powder form, totalling approximately 300 grams. They are now in custody awaiting further court appearances.

- On 20 July two male Hong Kong Chinese nationals off a flight from Hong Kong were searched by Customs officers, and were found to have a total of approximately 16,235 methamphetamine tablets taped to their bodies.

- Two days later two male Hong Kong Chinese nationals off a flight from Korea were searched by Customs officers, and found to have a total of 19,703 MDMA tablets concealed within packages in their luggage.

- Also in July a male Polish national was searched by Customs officers and was found to have a kilogram of methamphetamine concealed in his shoes.

- In late June a female Australian national was apprehended after she had arrived at Auckland International Airport on a flight from Japan. An x-ray examination of her baggage by officials from MAF identified 35,378 MDMA tablets concealed within a pillow in her baggage.

- On May 30 Customs officers at Auckland International Mail Centre seized 863 grams of crystallised methamphetamine in two parcels from Thailand.

- In early May a male Hong Kong Chinese national off a flight from Taipei was searched by Customs officers and found to have 8,448 tablets of MDMA taped to his body. This offender, Benny Lam, has been sentenced to nine and a half years imprisonment by the Auckland District Court.

- On May 5 a joint Police/Customs operation in Auckland resulted in New Zealand’s largest ever seizure of MDMA, after 36,000 tablets were found concealed in a wooden packing case containing camping equipment that had been imported from South Africa. Customs officers examining the shipment located the tablets concealed in a cavity in the floor of the wooden case.

Investigations into a number of these matters are continuing and those charged are still before the courts.

Also this year, in March a joint Police/Customs operation resulted in the seizure of a quantity of high purity MDMA in liquid form, estimated to be sufficient to produce the equivalent of 30,000 “on the street” tablets.

Customs Operations Manager for Drug Investigations, Simon Williamson, says the increase in seizures confirms that the drug is in increasing demand in New Zealand.

He says the most recent survey conducted by the Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit has established a significant increase in the use of drugs associated with the dance party scene.

For example the survey reported the number of users of ecstasy in the 20-24 year old age group had increased from 3 percent in 1998 to 10 percent in 2001.

“The seizures we are making confirm this research,” says Mr Williamson.


MDMA is a class B controlled drug, often sold under the street name of ecstasy.

Methamphetamine is a class B controlled drug, often sold under the street name of speed.

Crystal methamphetamine is a class B controlled drug, often sold under the street name of ice.

Amphetamine is a class B controlled drug, often sold under the street name of crank.

In the 2001 calendar year Customs seized the equivalent of 73,000 tablets of MDMA.

In the 2000 calendar year Customs seized the equivalent of 9,600 tablets of MDMA.


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