Baggage handlers and others to be tried for alleged methamphetamine imports

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Twelve people charged with alleged drug trafficking at the New Zealand border will face trial in the High Court.

In November, 13 men and two women were charged after a police operation dubbed Operation Selena. The defendants include six Air New Zealand baggage handlers and two King Cobras.

The defendants face a range of charges including importing hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine from Malaysia, participating in an organized criminal group, possessing the Class A drug for supply and selling Drugs.

The methamphetamine was disguised as taro and cassava when it was seized as part of Operation Selena.

NZ POLICY/PROVIDED

The methamphetamine was disguised as taro and cassava when it was seized as part of Operation Selena.

They appeared in Auckland High Court on Friday, where Judge Sally Fitzgerald set a six-week trial date and released them on bail and in police custody to appear again in September.

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They include Nigel Iuvale, Kimela Piukana, Sitaleki Maka, Tungane Manuel, Paul Metua Toroma, Tokofa Paulo Toroma, Martin Julian Pritchard, Rhys Alefa Tualevoa and Mairiau Sailor Papatauturu Samson.

And two men who have temporary name deletions.

From left to right: Nigel Iuvale and Rhys Alefa Tualevoa, Martin Julian Pritchard and Tungane Manuel appearing.

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From left to right: Nigel Iuvale and Rhys Alefa Tualevoa, Martin Julian Pritchard and Tungane Manuel appearing.

The defendants, who are free on bail, have all been placed in pre-trial detention under strict conditions. These include adhering to curfews, not traveling within a mile of Auckland Airport, not using encrypted messaging apps and surrendering their passports.

Police previously said the operation began after baggage handlers at Auckland International Airport raised suspicion.

Over half a million dollars in cash was also found with an air gun during Operation Selena in Auckland.

PROVIDED/NZ POLICY

Over half a million dollars in cash was also found with an air gun during Operation Selena in Auckland.

New Zealand Police and Customs estimated the baggage handlers had received more than 250kg of drugs from overseas in the past 10 months.

They said the group tried to smuggle 200kg of methamphetamine from Malaysia, but those packages were stopped at the border.

Police searched 20 addresses and found more than $500,000 in cash and two firearms.

Detective Inspector Paul Newman previously said the arrests showed organized crime was resilient and resourceful.

“The amount of methamphetamine that this group of delinquents smuggled or conspired to smuggle into New Zealand through their brazen actions at the airport was enormous and continues to have a devastating and immeasurable impact on the community” , did he declare.

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