New Zealand cocaine haul believed drifted 2,100 km from Australia

This handout picture released on August 8, 2019 courtesy of detective inspector Colin Parmenter from the New Zealand Police Waitemata District shows a number of packages containing cocaine on display after they were discovered by police on West Auckland’s Bethells Beach. – Millions of dollars worth of cocaine has washed up on a New Zealand beach with police urging the public on August 8 to hand in any more packages which may turn up. (Photo by Colin PARMENTER / NEW ZEALAND POLICE WAITEMATA DISTRICT / AFP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AFP) — A multi-million dollar haul of cocaine washed up on a New Zealand beach this week is believed to have drifted more than 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) across the Tasman Sea from Australia, police said Friday.

They linked the find of 20 packets of cocaine — with an estimated street value of NZ$3.0 million (US$2.0 million) — at Bethells Beach in West Auckland to packages dumped off the New South Wales coast in August 2018.

“A rigid inflatable boat was seen by Australian Border Force and Defence patrols off the northern New South Wales coast heading towards the mainland, and authorities were sent to intercept it,” New Zealand police detective inspector Colin Parmenter said.

“The two occupants of the inflatable were seen offloading the cocaine into the sea, and they were arrested.”

Part of the shipment was found at locations along the eastern Australian coastline, from northern Queensland to New South Wales, and the packages washed up in Auckland had similar markings.

“The product found on Bethells Beach appears to have been part of this same shipment and has drifted here over the last year, as the markings and packaging of the drugs is consistent with that seized in Australia,” Parmenter said.

Police are continuing to make helicopter sweeps over Bethells Beach and say “there remains a small possibility of further packages turning up”.

© Agence France-Presse