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Drugs in baby grand pianos

20 March 2014

Drugs in baby grand pianos

Two Chinese student flatmates have been sentenced to three years and four months’ imprisonment for their roles in importing Contac NT hidden inside miniature grand pianos.

Flatmates Haojiang Li, 23, and Zuoquan Wang, 25, were sentenced at the Manukau District Court for importation and possession of a class B controlled drug. A third flatmate, Guangdi Liu, 21, was sentenced to three years and eight months’ imprisonment in October 2013.

Operation Mini began last June, after Customs officers at the International Mail Centre intercepted a miniature grand piano sent from China. Upon examination, about 4.5kg of compressed Contac NT powder was located inside the piano lid. Another piano was intercepted two weeks later.

Each piano had enough Contac NT to yield up to 1.2 kg of methamphetamine or ‘P’, with a street value of up to $1.44m.

Customs investigators caught Li and Liu in their car after they picked up the package and ripped it open, dismantling the piano on their drive home. Also in the car was NZ$2,255 in cash.

Wang was interviewed during a search warrant at their Massey flat the same day. Customs officers also located $2,150 in his car and removed a number of electronic items for further examination. He was arrested at Auckland Airport the next evening, trying to flee to China.

Customs Manager Investigations, Maurice O’Brien says this case highlights a common trend of international students being used by criminal syndicates as ‘catchers’ to receive and deliver packages, usually in exchange for money.

“It’s unfortunate these students get caught up in this illicit trade and end up bearing the full brunt of the law, jeopardising their future. It can be particularly distressing for their families in China, especially as many come from single-child families.”

Mr O’Brien says no one is immune to criminal elements, and it’s important the public is aware of some of the methods these criminals use.

“Criminals could be renting properties or apartments solely to have packages delivered to that address, or asking others to receive a package on their behalf. In this case, it appears they were asking unsuspecting friends to receive the packages at their home addresses,” he says.

Drug handling could be happening openly in universities, schools, or student apartments. The public should report any suspected behaviours or concerns to 0800 4 CUSTOMS or Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.


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