Four arrested in $20m cocaine bust

Four foreign nationals were also arrested yesterday at the climax of a five-month investigation carried out by police and Customs staff in New Zealand.

After several smaller busts, the investigation discovered that a cocaine shipment would be offloaded from a commercial ship near Tauranga this week.

Police said the ship arrived from Chile late on Monday night, and the cocaine was retrieved from a hidden compartment on the exterior of the hull.

Search warrants were then carried out in Tauranga, Mt Maunganui and Auckland early this morning and four men were arrested.

The two Australian men, one Croatian man, aged in their mid-40s and a Serbian man aged in the mid-30s, were to appear in the Tauranga District Court yesterday afternoon, charged with importing the cocaine and possessing it for supply.

Police said a further five kilograms of cocaine and a kilogram of methamphetamine was found in an Onehunga address along with a large amount of cash.

Police said there were links to an earlier incident in which another 30kg of cocaine was smuggled into New Zealand, and the four arrested men would face additional charges relating to this.

Customs spokesperson Jamie Bamford said New Zealand was being targeted by international crime syndicates as a market for cocaine.

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