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Criminals pay for new drug screening lab

Criminals pay for new drug screening lab


Customs Minister Nicky Wagner says the opening of the first drug screening laboratory at the border will dramatically speed up analysis of unknown substances, saving time and money for Customs.

The $250,000 lab was officially opened by Prime Minister John Key today at Customs’ Auckland Airport facility. It has been built and equipped from the first proceeds of crime funding allocation.

“This screening lab is a big boost to border capabilities, as faster analysis of unknown substances will ensure faster investigative action against illegal drug importers.

“It will also help improve intelligence and knowledge of psychoactive substances coming in to New Zealand, and allow quicker delivery of legitimate imports previously detained for further testing,” Ms Wagner says.

Samples were previously sent away to Environmental Science and Research, with results taking up to six weeks. Results can now be known in minutes.

“The lab is equipped with technology that can analyse hundreds of substances in hours and will be linked to ESR’s main database, increasing the range of substances that can be identified,” Ms Wagner says.

Customs expects to refer about 65 samples every week; although the lab, which will be staffed by ESR, can handle much larger volumes.

This equipment complements a portable drug screening device Customs also recently purchased through proceeds of crime funding.

“The government made a commitment in 2009 that money taken from those who profited from illicit drugs would be used to target the drug trade and help those affected by it to get treatment. Ill-gotten gains are now being used for good purposes,” Nicky Wagner says.

More than $10 million has been allocated since November to initiatives like the drug screening lab. Since the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act came into force in December 2009, the Police have obtained forfeiture orders for assets worth about $49 million (as at 31 July 2014), 55% of which are related to methamphetamine offences.

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