New Zealand Police disrupt crime syndicate in Wellington

A joint operation between Police and Immigration New Zealand has disrupted a criminal syndicate being operated by Vietnamese and Cambodian nationals in Wellington.

Three people, one of whom faces deportation, have been jointly charged with cultivating cannabis and participating in an organised criminal group.

They will appear in the Wellington District Court next week.

Two others will be deported and one other faces potential deportation.

Police executed three search warrants at three addresses in Wellington and Kapiti yesterday morning.

Two of the properties were found to have been set up as sophisticated cannabis growing houses capable of producing large quantities of cannabis to sell.

At the third address, Police seized approximately $15,000 of cash.

Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Leitch says the operation serves as a reminder that Police continue to investigate criminal groups who seek to enrich themselves through commercial cannabis cultivation.

“These groups are highly organised and spend significant effort and expense operating under the radar in rented residential homes across our towns and cities.

“When they eventually move on, they often leave the houses with extensive damage and unpaid rent.

We encourage owners and agents operating residential rental properties to know their tenants and regularly inspect in accordance with their rights under the Residential Tenancies Act.”

Immigration Investigations’ National Manager, Stephanie Greathead, says the operation emphasises the importance for migrants to be aware of people who would seek to exploit their immigration status.

“If you are being asked to pay large sums of money to offshore agents to travel and work in New Zealand, it is highly likely that this is part of a fraudulent scam.”

This operation bears similarities to Operation Beryl, which terminated in Tamaki Makaurau on 1 December, removing 6886 plants and approximately 10 kilograms of packaged cannabis from possible sale.

This had a street value of between $16-$25 million.

Up to $100,000 in cash was also located and seized.

Enquiries are ongoing to determine any link between the two operations.

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New Zealand Police delivers services that ensure people can be safe and feel safe in their homes, on our roads and in their communities. Police operate 24 hours a day in a complex environment, actively targeting and preventing crime and harm. With around 15,000 staff, the New Zealand Police works from urban and rural stations and larger policing hubs.