Drug mule slips Customs with age-old escape trick

Newsroom Exclusive

Shane Cowlishaw

Auckland, June 20, 2018

In what sounds like the plot of a Hollywood movie, a man accused of importing cocaine escaped custody after a string of blunders by Customs.

Using his hoodie and some pillows, an alleged drug mule slipped his oblivious guards and escaped out an Auckland hotel window.

It is understood the man was arrested in May at Auckland Airport after being found with cocaine.

After being searched, he was arrested by Customs officers, who decided to go through with the planned delivery of the drugs as part of a controlled operation.

A good make-good

But while staff stood guard outside a central Auckland hotel room the man used his hoodie and pillows to make it appear he was asleep in bed and jumped out a window.

It is understood it was several hours before his deception was realised.

With the help of police, the man was later discovered at an East Auckland motel that he had originally booked before being arrested.

While the man had no passport and could not flee the country, it is understood he was found with cash on him.

When initially stopped at the airport, he was asked to empty his pockets and wallet onto a bench while his bag was searched.

But while officers were distracted doing that, he managed to swipe the cash back. After his arrest he was not searched again despite it being protocol.

Minister not pleased

Meka Whaitiri, the Minister responsible for Customs, said she had been unhappy when told about the incident earlier this month.

A mistake like this was one too many and she expected a thorough review of what had gone wrong, she said.

“At the time I was briefed I made it really clear with Customs that, obviously, any breach of our security is not good. I have laid out my expectations … they have got it very clear from me that it is a breach of our safe systems and I expect improvement,” she said.

Independent Review

Customs’ Intelligence, Investigations and Enforcement Manager Jamie Bamford confirmed that the incident and said an independent review had started.

No further comment could be made while the matter was before the court, he said. Police also declined to comment.

New Zealand has some of the highest recreational drug prices in the world, making it an attractive proposition for smugglers.

Too many with drugs

This year several people have been jailed, including two Israeli citizens caught with $2 million of ecstasy in a suitcase and a New Zealand-American citizen who ran a syndicate that smuggled methamphetamine into the country inside women’s bodies.

Authorities seized three times more cocaine last year than the year before, totalling 108 kgs.

Almost half of that was seized at the end of 2017 when four foreign citizens were arrested and $20 million of cocaine was discovered at a Tauranga address following a five-month investigation.

Shane Cowlishaw is National Affairs Editor at Newsroom, an independent, New Zealand-based news and current affairs site. Indian Newslink has published the above Report and Picture under a Special Agreement with www.newsroom.co.nz

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Photo Caption:

  1. The alleged drug mule escaped an Auckland hotel ( Photo by Shane Cowlishaw)
  2. Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri said that an independent review had been ordered into the botch-up. Photo for Newsroom by Lynn Grieveson

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