New Zealand Customs Service says it has made arrests after executing a series of search warrants in Auckland.
It says a mother and her adult son have been arrested after investigations identified a family-based criminal enterprise operating out of Auckland which was manipulating travellers to illegally bring tobacco into New Zealand.
"Customs believes the offending has spanned at least 18 months, and involved 79.6 kgs of intercepted tobacco and $113,422 in evaded duties & GST," it says.
"A 34-year-old New Zealand male, believed to be the syndicate’s organiser, was arrested at Auckland Airport on Tuesday 12 November when returning from Rarotonga.
"Customs investigators, with the assistance of NZ Police, executed search warrants at residences on 14 Novembr, leading to the arrest of a 52-year-old New Zealand female. Several stolen vehicles were recovered during the search, and small amounts of cannabis, MDMA, and cocaine were seized."
“Criminals or opportunists may assume Customs isn’t concerned about travellers who try to smuggle undeclared tobacco, but that’s not true," says Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry. "We have a team that specifically targets the organisers of cross-border revenue fraud. We urge travellers not to bring in undeclared tobacco for others.”
The investigation was conducted with the Cook Islands Customs Service and the Cook Islands Financial Intelligence Unit. The New Zealand Customs Service says the Cook Islands organisations shared key intelligence that assisted with inquiries into the criminal syndicate. It says the two individuals arrested are believed to be linked to organised crime in Auckland.