New Zealand officials find half ton of meth hidden in motors from Thailand

New Zealand authorities said they made a huge dent in the local drug market with the discovery of more than half a ton of methamphetamine hidden inside a shipment of electric motors from Thailand.

Customs officials seized 1,034 pounds of meth with a street value of $150 million at the Ports of Auckland from electric motors that arrived inside a shipping container in mid-August. It was the largest-ever border seizure of meth in New Zealand.

Bruce Berry, the Customs Investigations manager, told the Associated Press that they believe the meth came from a sophisticated Canadian drug cartel that is looking for a new market. He said New Zealand has proved attractive to the cartel because meth sells on the streets there for a higher price than just about anywhere else in the world.

In this Aug. 26, 2019 photo provided by New Zealand Customs, shows electric motors found in a container from Thailand with 469 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in the motors. Police said Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, the US$153 million worth of the drug is the largest ever seizure at New Zealand's border. (New Zealand Customs via AP)

In this Aug. 26, 2019 photo provided by New Zealand Customs, shows electric motors found in a container from Thailand with 469 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in the motors. Police said Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, the US$153 million worth of the drug is the largest ever seizure at New Zealand's border. (New Zealand Customs via AP)

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“Whatever we do, these syndicates are going to try to push their poison onto our communities,” he said.

Berry said this drug bust was equivalent to the total amount of meth consumed in New Zealand in a span of six months.

Two Canadian men in their mid-20s and one New Zealand man have been arrested and charged with importing and possessing methamphetamine. They each face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

In this Aug. 26, 2019 photo provided by New Zealand Customs, shows a bag of methamphetamine found in a container from Thailand with 469 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in electric motors. Police said Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, the US$153 million worth of the drug is the largest ever seizure at New Zealand's border. (New Zealand Customs via AP)

In this Aug. 26, 2019 photo provided by New Zealand Customs, shows a bag of methamphetamine found in a container from Thailand with 469 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in electric motors. Police said Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, the US$153 million worth of the drug is the largest ever seizure at New Zealand's border. (New Zealand Customs via AP)

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Berry said the latest case seemed to follow a playbook used by the cartels, in which a front company is set up in New Zealand and then a shore party arrives, uses Airbnb accommodations, rents storage units and tries to collect and sell the drugs before sending the money back overseas.

He said more arrests were likely in New Zealand and possibly in other countries. A gun and cash were seized after executing search warrants around Auckland, officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.