Nearly 200 kilograms of cocaine has been found in a shipment of bananas in what is New Zealand’s largest cocaine bust, resulting in the arrest of an Australian man.
New Zealand police and customs officials said on Friday that the cocaine was contained in five duffel bags on top of bananas in a shipment coming from Panama.
The cocaine had an estimated street value of US$28 – 36 million.
The cocaine, which had arrived in August and was destined to be distributed in Australia, was replaced with an inert substance so that police could control the delivery.
A 41-year-old man from Sydney has been arrested in relation to the case. He was charged with one count of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said that they will allege in court that the man was attempting to take possession of approximately 57 kilograms of the substituted cocaine.
“Further inquiries are ongoing into the source of the illicit drugs and other potential recipients in Australia,” said AFP.
The bust came after the shipment was identified as suspicious following an investigation into an Australia-based organized crime group, New Zealand police said.
The maximum penalty for this offense is life imprisonment.
“The operation has shown our dedication, both police and Customs, into disrupting organized criminals who are bringing these drugs into our country and causing this devastating effect on our community,” said Detective Inspector Paul Newman of the National Organized Crime Group.